Rajapakse faces huge protests

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse was greeted with robust protests by several Tamil parties and social outfits as he arrived Friday along with wife Shiranthi and a 70-member entourage for pilgrimage at Bodh Gaya and Tirupati. After a special Suprabhatha darshan of Lord Venkateswara at Tirumala Saturday morning, they will return to Colombo by their special aircraft.

This time, the Sinhala leader faced his most hostile agitations on an India trip since winning the war against the Tamil Tigers. The protesters included the leaders of the DMK, a constituent of the UPA government at the Centre, who held a public rally in Chennai along with allies VCK and DK. Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa, speaking in the state Assembly, demanded that India should move a resolution in the UN for imposing economic sanctions on Sri Lanka till its minority Tamils got equal rights.
“This is a religious place... we should not talk politics here. We will discuss it at Colombo... please come over,” Mr Rajapakse said when reporters at Gaya sought his reaction to the protests. Along with his wife and the rest of the delegation, the Buddhist President offered prayers at the Mahabodhi temple and meditated under the peepal tree where Lord Buddha had attained enlightenment. He later visited the Sri Lankan Buddha Vihara in Bodh Gaya town amid heavy security.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar hosted a lunch for the visiting dignitaries while cadres of the CPI (M-L) Liberation and the All-India Students Association raised slogans outside the hotel. The CM also saw his guests off when they boarded the plane for Renigunta close to Tirupati.
The entire town of Tirupati and the shrine area at Tirumala atop the Seven Hills were virtually taken over by security forces, with the CRPF backing up the local police efforts to maintain law and order even as intelligence reports warned of large influx of protesters from Tamil Nadu. At least 500 members of the DMK, MDMK and other Tamil outfits who managed to slip through the police vigil were detained by the police when they shouted slogans against the Lankan President’s visit.

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