Tamil man kills himself over Sri Lanka violence (Second Lead)

January 29th, 2009 - 8:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, Jan 29 (IANS) A 26-year-old Tamil man died here Thursday after setting himself on fire to protest against the killing of Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka, triggering a mob attack on a Bank of Ceylon branch.It was the first case of self-immolation in Tamil Nadu over reports that hundreds of Tamil civilians had been killed in Sri Lanka’s war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

M. Muthu Kumaran, 26, a computer operator, set himself on fire outside a building housing central government offices, a symbolic action to denounce what many in Tamil Nadu see as New Delhi’s pro-Colombo policy.

Muthu Kumaran suffered severe burns before people came to his rescue and rushed him to a hospital. Doctors said he suffered 95 percent burns and he died soon after hospitalisation.

According to the police, before dying, Muthu Kumaran, who worked for a PMK-owned Tamil journal, said: “My attempt is to open the eyes of the central and state governments to the burning issue of (Sri Lankan) Tamils.”

Hailing from Tuticorin in southern Tamil Nadu, some 500 km south of Chennai, Muthu Kumaran was working in the state capital for the past six months.

The PMK is an avid supporter of the LTTE and has been urging both the Tamil Nadu and central governments to take pro-active steps to bring about a ceasefire in Sri Lanka.

Thursday’s suicide — in a state where self-immolation is almost a political culture — triggered violence in the Tamil Nadu capital, with mourners attacking a branch of the Bank of Ceylon in north Chennai.

The protesters stoned the bank building and broke windowpanes, the police said. Police reinforcements were rushed to the spot.

Police sources added that security had been tightened outside the office of Sri Lanka’s deputy high commission in south Chennai.

Meanwhile, legislators belonging to the Communist Party of India, which has increasingly taken a stridently pro-LTTE line, the MDMK and VCK staged a walkout from the Tamil Nadu assembly Thursday over the Sri Lanka war.

The parties described the brief visit External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee paid to Sri Lanka Tuesday night as “unproductive”. Mukherjee had declared that while India had no sympathy for the LTTE, it was concerned about the plight of Tamil civilians trapped in the conflict.

Passions are running high in Tamil Nadu over the military offensive against the LTTE in Sri Lanka’s north, leading to hundreds getting killed and wounded in artillery shelling, gun fire and aerial attacks.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has put the civilian death toll at hundreds.

Tamil Nadu is separated from Sri Lanka by a narrow strip of sea and once harboured Tamil militant groups from the island, the LTTE included.

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