Shutdown over Sri Lankan tangle remains largely peaceful (Roundup)

February 5th, 2009 - 12:36 am ICT by IANS  

Chennai, Feb 4 (IANS) A 12-hour shutdown called by some opposition parties in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry Wednesday to protest civilian deaths in Sri Lanka ended peacefully though over 1,100 protestors were arrested amid sporadic incidents of violence.While authorities in Tamil Nadu and the union territory of Puducherry claimed near normalcy, opposition leaders insisted the daylong general strike was a success despite the government’s attempted suppression.

Residents here said most shops, businesses and schools were open and traffic was normal.

“We have arrested 500 anti-social elements and over 45 buses were damaged (all over the state),” Director General of Police K.P. Jain told IANS.

Communist Party of India (CPI) legislator N. Ulaganathan was among those arrested in Tiruvarur, the home district of Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi.

Jain said stray incidents of stone-throwing damaged government buses and some commercial establishments were damaged.

“Outside the Madras High Court, demonstrating lawyers attacked and badly damaged a cycle showroom. The owner and one of the employees were also hurt,” Jain added.

The shutdown was called by the Lankan Tamil Protection Movement (LTPM), led by Tamil nationalist leader P. Nedumaran.

“The whole thing is a grand success despite pressure from the ruling party (DMK) and police. If the central and state governments continue to ignore the sentiments expressed by the Tamils, bigger agitations are bound to follow,” Nedumaran told IANS.

“The Tamils have shown their anger at the killing of over 1,000 innocent Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka during the last two weeks,” he added.

Comprising the Tamil National Movement; PMK, CPI, MDMK and VCK organised the strike to coincide with Sri Lanka’s independence day.

Except for the CPI, the other parties espouse the separatist cause of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) besides demanding the declaration of a ceasefire in Sri Lanka.

The parties are particularly angry over the central and state governments’ refusal to press Colombo to go for a ceasefire.

Police officials speaking on condition of anonymity said the strike had failed to derail Tamil Nadu, a state of nearly 70 million divided from Sri Lanka by a narrow strip of sea.

“Though all essential transport services operated normally, there were some minor incidents of stone throwing here in Chennai and also in the towns of Cuddalore, Tiruchirappalli, Madurai, Sivakasi, Ramanathapuram and Kanyakumari,” a police official said.

Most protestors in Chennai were either political activists or students and lawyers angered by Colombo’s refusal to halt the military push against the LTTE, which is now holed up in a small area of Sri Lanka’s north.

TV channels, however, showed empty streets in Puducherry, about 280 km from here.

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