A day after two batches of Sri Lankan students who were here on invitation to play football matches left India in three different flights on Sunday, tension prevailed in Thanjavur district where 200 Sri Lankans arrived to participate in a religious event.
Members of the Naam Tamizhar Iyakkam raised slogans protesting the visit of the Sri Lankan nationals and demanded that they be sent back immediately, police sources said.
Worried about the development, one of the pilgrims made frantic calls to officials, including the Foreign Secretary of India.
Top police and revenue officials intervened and held talks with both groups. “No decision has been taken yet on sending them (the Sri Lankan nationals) back to their country. As of now, adequate security arrangements have been made to ensure their safety. They had come to participate in a church festival,” a senior police official said.
Meanwhile, Chennai police sources said Sri Lankan school students who had come to play football matches advanced their return tickets and left the country with the assistance of the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commission authorities.
Hours after Chief Minister Jayalalithaa ordered that the Sri Lankan students be sent back, police got in touch with the teams and persuaded them to leave, the sources said.
The first team of 11 students arrived in Chennai on August 30 and played a friendly match with a Customs team. While they waited to play the next match, another team of 19 students landed early on Sunday. They were scheduled to play a match with a private school team here.
“In order to ensure their safety, we escorted them to the airport. In the last one week, there were two incidents of protests against the visit of Sri Lankan students. Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam workers staged a demonstration against the visit of a Sri Lankan school cricket team to a school in Yercaud. Similarly, a protest was organised to oppose another group participating in a cultural programme in a Tiruchi college,” a police officer said.
The Deputy High Commissioner for Sri Lanka in Southern India R.K.M.A. Rajakaruna termed the incidents unfortunate. “The students were here on invitation…it was a goodwill visit and they had their return tickets. The visit was not in connection with any Government programme but based on people-to-people contact. It is very unfortunate that these incidents are happening here,” he told The Hindu.
Mr. Rajakaruna said a special request was made to Sri Lankan Airlines to fly the players to Colombo.