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Vaiko holds protest against Mahinda Rajapaksa’s visit, detained

LiveMint logoLiveMint 26-05-2014 S. Bridget Leena

Chennai/New Delhi: Political parties, fishermen and student groups in Tamil Nadu on Monday staged protests against Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa attending the swearing-in ceremony for Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi and his cabinet.

The Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), an ally of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), held a protest in the national capital. MDMK leader V. Gopalsamy, better known as Vaiko, led a black-flag demonstration at Jantar Mantar in central Delhi and was arrested by Delhi police.

Meanwhile, Rajapaksa arrived in a private jet from Colombo to attend Monday evening’s swearing-in—an invitee, along with fellow-South Asian leaders Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of Pakistan, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay, Nepal Prime Minister Sushil Koirala and Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom.

Speaker Shirin Chaudhury will represent Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who will be in Japan on a previously scheduled visit.

Tamil Nadu’s ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and the opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) have condemned the invitation sent to Rajapaksa, whom Tamil parties accuse of war crimes, particularly in the final stages of the Tamil separatist conflict that ended in 2009 with the decimation of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Chief minister and AIADMK chief J. Jayalalithaa has decided not to attend the swearing-in in a gesture of support for the Sri Lankan Tamil cause. Three years ago, when Jayalalithaa became chief minister of Tamil Nadu for the third time, Modi was present for her swearing-in.

BJP allies in Tamil Nadu, including Anbumani Ramadoss of Pattali Makkal Katchi, actor-turned politician Vijayakanth, his wife Premalatha and brother-in-law L.K Sudeesh of Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhgam (DMDK) and leaders of small parties Kongu Nadu Makkal Desiya Katchi and Indiya Jananayaka Katchi will be attending the swearing-in ceremony.

Tamil actor Rajnikanth, who was invited to the swearing-in, said he wouldn’t be able to attend the ceremony because he was not keeping well. Last month, when Modi met Rajnikanth at his residence in Chennai, the actor called Modi a “good friend.” His wife Latha Rajnikanth and daughter Aishwarya Dhanush will be attending the event.

India’s 72 million Tamils share strong and close cultural ties with Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority, who accuse the Sri Lankan authorities of failing to protect Tamil civilians during the 37-year civil war with the rebel LTTE.

The 1972-2009 conflict claimed 100,000 lives, according to UN estimates. In 2011, UN monitors said that tens of thousands died during the army’s final offensive against the LTTE, which was fighting to establish a separate state in the north and east of Sinhala-majority Sri Lanka.

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