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Tamil activists held ahead of Rajapaksa visit

Staff Reporter
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Section 144 also clamped in Tirupati as a precautionary measure

Cautionary step:Policemen rounding up the agitating Tamil activists, ahead of the visit of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, at Shilparamam junction in Tirupati on Friday.– Photo: K. V. Poornachandra Kumar(Related reports on Page 11)
Cautionary step:Policemen rounding up the agitating Tamil activists, ahead of the visit of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, at Shilparamam junction in Tirupati on Friday.– Photo: K. V. Poornachandra Kumar(Related reports on Page 11)

The huge contingents comprising Tamil activists who poured into the temple city of Tirupati from neighbouring Tamil Nadu to lodge protests against the visit of Sri Lanka President Mahinda Rajapaksa were promptly rounded up and kept in various police stations on Friday. Section 144 was also clamped on the city as a precautionary measure.

The President’s entourage reached the airport by 4.30 p.m. and motored up the Tirumala ghat road to reach the Venkateswara temple by 5.20 p.m. to participate in the pre-dawn ritual, ‘Suprabhata Seva’, in the early hours of Saturday.

Police taken aback

Based on intelligence inputs gathered ahead of the visit, the police swooped down on the members of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) and other groups, who had descended in large numbers at the railway station on Friday morning.

The police officials, who were already busy making security arrangements for the elections to the Tirupati Cooperative Bank, were taken aback at the sudden inflow of the large number of protesters into the city.

The protesters continued to flow into the district in batches from Chennai via Puttur-Nagari and from Vellore area via Gudipala-Chittoor. Around 50 members clad in black shirts were whisked away to M.R. Palle police station, while a large number of them were ferried in buses to the Chandragiri police station. Carrying posters of Vaiko and the slain LTTE chief V.Prabhakaran, the agitators tore the posters of Rajapaksa. Around 50 vehicles carrying the protesters were rounded up in Puttur town. Several agitators stayed put in Tiruchanur area and suddenly came on to the highway to stage a ‘lightning dharna’ at Shilparamam junction.

Centre flayed

Speaking to the media, the agitators housed in the M.R. Palle station flayed the Central Government for spreading a red carpet to Mr. Rajapaksa, who they accused of masterminding ‘genocide’ of Tamils. While blaming the Sri Lankan Government of ‘desecrating’ Hindu temples in the island-nation, they wondered why its President should be allowed to visit the Tirumala temple. Speaking in a mix of Tamil and Telugu, some leaders wondered if it was democratic to arrest those who had come only to show ‘black flags’.

Even after the Presidential convoy reached Tirumala, the undaunted protesters squatted at the APSRTC junction and staged a dharna after dusk.

Police officials were taken by surprise at the sudden inflow of the large number of protesters into the city


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