Tamil Nadu, Puducherry shut down sends strong signals to State, Central Governments

[TamilNet, Thursday, 05 February 2009, 10:37 GMT]
In the face of severe threats from the State Government, the people of Tamil Nadu projected their unified voice of support for the Eelam Tamils by making the Wednesday general strike a grand success. More than 90 percent of the shops and commercial establishments throughout the state downed their shutters as a mark of solidarity. Although the umbrella front, Ilangkaith Thamizhar Paathukaappu Pearavai, which was recently formed to protect the Eezham Tamils, had announced the boycott, it was the spontaneous participation of the people of Tamil Nadu of all walks of life, made it a big success. Since the strike coincided with Sri Lanka's 61st independence day, the Sinhalese lion flag and Mahinda Rajapakse's effigy were burnt in several places.

Protesters block buses
Protesters block buses


According to news reports in Indian media, more than three hundred thousands employees of State and Union Government offices had pledged their support to the "bandh" and had boycotted work. Government offices were deserted and even in the capital city of Chennai, attendance was thin.

Protesters block buses
Protesters block buses
Even though the Government had made all efforts to keep the public transportation services in perfect order, the number of people who ventured out to their homes in order to travel remained miniscule. The State Government had posted two police personnel for every single bus that connected cities. The largest bus terminus in Asia at Koyambedu in Chennai showed no sign of passengers. Private bus-owners as well auto-rickshaws did not ply in the city following the bandh call. Fishermen in coastal districts like Cuddalore and Kanyakumari did not venture out into the seas, and their boats lay idle at the harbours.

When more than 3000 Eelam Tamil refugees at the Gummidipoondi refugee camp launched a hunger-strike to demand a ceasefire in order to end the genocidal killing of innocent Tamils, the local Superintendent of Police Navin Chandran Nagesh and Inspector Michael Irudhayaraj prevented them from sitting for a fast without the Government's prior permission. Subsequently the women appealed to the officials to permit them to undertake a hunger strike.

Gummidipoondi refugee camp Wednesday morning
Gummidipoondi refugee camp Wednesday morning


The heavy deployment of some ten thousand police personnel across the state did nothing to deter the protestors. Several incidents of stone throwing at state-run buses were reported. Organisers blamed Kalaignar Karunanidhi for attempting to sabotage the democratic protest by misusing police power. Those who attempted to block roads, take out processions, or hold a demonstration publicly were indiscriminately arrested. Lawyers and students were very active.

Protesters block buses
Protesters block buses


Cadres of the umbrella front resorted to railway blockade in many places. More than 2000 cadres of the participating political parties were arrested for attempting to block trains. Those arrested include Community Party's legislators Sivapunniyam (at Mannaarkudi), Ulaganathan (at Thiruththu'raippoo'ndi) and Gunasegaran (at Chivakangkai). All India Students Federation (AISF) leader Thirumalai was arrested in Anna Salai for burning Rajapaksa's effigy. Lawyers in Chennai burnt the Sri Lankan flag in front of the High Court campus and raised slogans condemning the genocide of Tamils.

At least 146 activists have been transferred to remand prisons, around 70 of them are CPI members, including Ulganathan MLA, according to CPI sources.

Unidentified people attacked Congress legislator Gnanasekaran's office in Vellore causing damage to the windowpanes and doors. Gnanasekaran however gave the incident a political twist and accused VCK cadres of having masterminded the attack.

A few thousand people in the state, a vast majority of them opposition party cadres, had been taken into preventive custody Tuesday in order to dilute the general strike. Citing the statement of the Tamil Nadu Director General of Police KP Jain, that the bandh had been totally peaceful, Dr. S. Ramadoss, founder-leader of the PMK sought the state government to immediately release all those who had been arrested as a preventive measure, and to withdraw the various cases that had been filed against them.


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