Sri Lanka strike hits Puducherry, life normal in Tamil Nadu (Lead)

February 4th, 2009 - 6:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Chennai, Feb 4 (IANS) More than 1,100 protestors were arrested in Tamil Nadu Wednesday to foil an opposition-sponsored strike against civilian deaths in Sri Lanka that seriously hit life in neighbouring Puducherry.Tamil Nadu authorities said that life was normal across the state but opposition leaders insisted that the daylong general strike was a success despite government attempts to suppress it.

Residents here said that most shops and businesses were open and traffic appeared to be normal on Chennai’s streets. A majority of the schools reported normal attendance.

“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.

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

Jain said stray incidents of stone-throwing — in which a number of vehicles including buses and commercial establishments were damaged — were reported in Chennai. Elsewhere in the state, too, the bandh-call affected life initially but as the day progressed normalcy limped back.

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

The bandh was called by the Lankan Tamil Protection Movement, led by Tamil nationalist leader P. Nedumaran who said: “The whole thing is a grand success”.

Several political parties, including the PMK and MDMK, also participated in the strike Wednesday — coinciding with Sri Lanka’s independence day — to protest the military offensive against the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka which rights groups say has killed a large number of civilians.

The Tamil Nadu political parties, some of which espouse the separatist cause of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), also want a truce in Sri Lanka.

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

Police officials speaking on the 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.

“All essential transport services operated normally,” a police official said. But he added that there had been minor incidents of stone throwing here in Chennai and also in the towns of Cuddalore, Trichy, Madurai, Sivakasi, Ramanathapuram and Kanyakumari.

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.

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

“The strike is a complete success despite government pressures and police threats,” Tamil nationalist leader P. Nedumaran told IANS.

He added: “If the central and state governments continue to ignore the feeling of Tamils in the state, bigger protests will be inevitable.”

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