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SL arranges plane to fly pilgrims in India back home

September 04, 2012 16:30 IST

In the backdrop of protests being faced by Sri Lankan pilgrims in Tamil Nadu, the island nation's government is arranging a special plane to take them back home on Tuesday.

"We get reports that some people follow the pilgrims' groups, intimidate, abuse and even attack them with stones," Sri Lanka Deputy High Commissioner R K M A Rajakaruna told PTI, adding that the group would be leaving on Tuesday.

The Sri Lankan government evaluated the situation as the people "appealed to us to arrange to send them back to Sri Lanka," he said.

"We thought it would be advisable to arrange their quick eviction from here," the envoy said.

A batch of 178 Sri Lankan nationals, on a pilgrimage in Tamil Nadu, faced protests for the second day on Tuesday, with a pro-Tamil outfit trying to block their vehicles when they were returning after offering worship at the famous Velankanni Christian shrine near Nagapattinam.

The police, however, intervened swiftly by arresting nine activists of the Naam Tamizhar Iyakkam, who tried to block the seven buses carrying the pilgrims.

The Lankan nationals faced similar protests during their pilgrimage to the Poondi Madha Christian shrine near Thanjavur on Monday.

Taking serious note of the protest against its nationals visiting Tamil Nadu on a pilgrimage, Sri Lanka warned its citizens against travelling to the southern Indian state where they were facing "increasing number of instances of intimidation."

The Lankan external affairs ministry also said that 184 pilgrims will be returning to Sri Lanka from Tamil Nadu on a special flight.

Issuing a travel advisory, the ministry said, "The government of Sri Lanka regrets the increasing number of instances of intimidation of Sri Lankan nationals visiting Tamil Nadu for the purposes of tourism, religious pilgrimages, sporting and cultural activities and professional training.

"These visits are a reflection of people-to-people contact between the polity of two countries which are bound by age-old friendly ties and traditions. The government is constrained to request Sri Lankan nationals in the interest of their security to desist from undertaking visits to Tamil Nadu until further notice," it said.

In the event there is a compelling reason to visit Tamil Nadu, such a visit should take place following prior timely intimation to the Sri Lanka Deputy High Commission in Chennai, the ministry said.

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