Karunanidhi on fast over Sri Lankan Tamils, PM concerned (Second Lead)

April 27th, 2009 - 12:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Chennai/New Delhi, April 27 (IANS) Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi began an indefinite hunger strike in Chennai Monday to protest “cruel acts” against Tamils in Sri Lanka, prompting a concerned Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to phone him to say India was trying to influence Colombo to end its hostilities.
“I have decided to offer my life to the increasing numbers of lives lost due to the Sinhalese regime’s continuing cruel acts against the Tamil ethnic minority in the war in Sri Lanka,” Karunanidhi told reporters in Chennai.

“After the Tamil Tigers offered unilateral truce (Sunday), I stayed awake the whole night surfing television channels and radio stations to hear good news. Since that did not happen, I have decided to embark upon this endeavour on behalf of all the Tamils of the world,” he added.

The 85-year-old DMK patriarch, who began his protest at the memorial of party founder C.N. Annadurai at Chennai’s Marina Beach after doing yoga exercises, was recovering from a back surgery and had not even taken his morning medication, family sources said.

A DMK source told IANS in Chennai that Manmohan Singh telephoned Karunanidhi and said his government was trying to influence Colombo to end the military offensive against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

“The prime minister called Kalaignar (Karunanidhi) on phone and assured him that everything was being done by India to get Colombo to declare a ceasefire in response to the unilateral offer by the Tamil Tigers,” he said.

In New Delhi, Congress general secretary M. Veerappa Moily told reporters that the prime minister was concerned about Karunanidhi’s health and has got in touch with him on the telephone.

“This is a democratic form of protest but balance has to be kept. These poor people are being used as human shield by a terrorist organisation like LTTE. We as a sovereign country cannot direct another sovereign country to create another country. How would you like if such a direction was given to India?

“But we are concerned about the non-combantants. Our concern about the ceasefire has been conveyed at the highest level. There is a global diplomatic effort with India at the frontline,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi told Times Now news channel.

Karunanidhi has been joined by his wives Dayalu and Rajathi Ammal, son and Local Administration Minister M.K. Stalin, daughter and Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi, grand nephew Dayanidhi Maran and Electricity Minister Arcot N. Veerasamy.

Within hours, a tent was erected around the chief minister and a bed, fans, portable air-conditioners and comfortable chairs provided.

An ambulance with a team of doctors was parked along the busy thoroughfare.

Over 1,000 DMK cadres have joined Karunanidhi in his protest. A party functionary said the chief minister has not informed anyone how long the hunger strike would last.

Several Congress leaders, including union minister G.K. Vasan, have called on Karunanidhi and asked him to give up his fast in view of his age and frail health, DMK sources said.

Already an emotional issue in Tamil Nadu, the Sri Lankan Tamil tangle assumed further importance after AIADMK general secretary Jayalalitha said Saturday that the establishment of a separate ‘Eelam’ homeland was the only solution for the Tamil minority in the island.

The ferment in Tamil Nadu comes amid the Sri Lankan government’s determination to crush the LTTE, now confined to less than 10 sq km land area in the coastal belt of Mullaithivu district.

The widespread civilian suffering caused by the war has raised international concern. On Sunday, Colombo rejected the LTTE’S ceasefire offer, calling it a “joke”.

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