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Protests in Tamil Nadu pick up steam

Students demand India vote against Lanka in UNHRC session; local industries, film fraternity extend support

T E Narasimhan & Gireesh Babu 

Protests against the violence against Tamils in Sri Lanka are intensifying across Tamil Nadu, with non-political organisations and industries joining students’ agitation. The situation in Chennai, however, have largely remained normal.

The protests began after Channel 4 brought out photographs of late Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) leader V Prabhakaran’s 12-year-old son Balachandran, supposed to have been taken hours before his death.

One photograph also showed his dead body.

The students are demanding India vote against Sri Lanka in the United Nations Human Rights Council session in Geneva. They have asked the government to press Colombo to acknowledge genocide against Tamils in that country; they also sought an independent probe into the alleged human right violations in that country.

Following the arrest of eight Loyola College students who had gone on an indefinite fast from March 11, students across the state joined the protests. Some have even resorted to blocking roads and trains.

The fact that Sri Lankan High Commissioner Prasada Kariyawasam told a TV channel the protests in were comparable to terrorism made the situation worse.

Meanwhile, the government has shut 525 engineering affiliated to Anna University and 438 arts and science in the state indefinitely. However, students have intensified their protests by holding fasts, taking out processions and staging dharnas near government establishments across Coimbatore, Tiruchy, Salem, Thanjavur, etc. At Coimbatore, a hub for engineering activities, about 2,000 students took out a massive procession.

Students from southern districts in the state, under the Federation of All College Students Supporting Tamil Eelam, are also demanding a separate Tamil Eelam (state).

Experts say such widespread demonstrations by students in the state were last seen during the 1965 anti-Hindi agitation. Then, the protests were led by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

<B>Support from all quarters</B><BR>
Local industries, as well as the film fraternity, are showing solidarity with the protesting students. Today, the fruit, flower and vegetable market at Koyambedu was shut. On an average, the market records business of ~50 crore and handles 300 trucks a day, said Koyambedu market association’s V R Soundararajan.

It is expected workers from industrial hubs such as Sriperumbudur, Coimbatore and Tirupur would also join the protests.

J James, district president (Coimbatore) of the Association of Cottage and Micro Enterprises, said to show solidarity with the students, about 3,000 units would be shut in Coimbatore. This would lead to an estimated loss of ~5-6 crore.

Tomorrow, representatives from the ~12,500-crore textile industry in Tirupur would also join the protests.

Today, many involved with the film industry in Chennai went on a hunger strike. Industry representatives said 26 film shoots were cancelled.

A Soundararajan, general secretary of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions and a member of the state legislative assembly, said members from various factories in and around Chennai would hold demonstrations to show their solidarity with the students tomorrow.

First Published: Wed, March 20 2013. 00:40 IST
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