COLOMBO: Sri Lanka’s government warned its people Tuesday not to visit the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu until further notice because of increasing intimidation of Sri Lankans there.
The warning came a day after 184 Sri Lankan pilgrims were mobbed in Tamil Nadu and had to seek refuge in the church they were visiting.
The pilgrims came under attack again Tuesday on their way to the airport to return home but Indian officials protected them and escorted them to a hotel until their departure, Sri Lankan authorities said.
Tamil Nadu is home to some 60 million Tamils who have ancestral links with Sri Lanka’s ethnic minority Tamils. The Indian Tamils have often expressed anger against Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese-dominated government, which has been accused of abusing Tamils during the country’s civil war.
About 200,000 Sri Lankans visit Tamil Nadu each year on business, leisure, education and pilgrimage. Political groups in the state continue to protest against training Sri Lankan military personnel in India, and the state government sent back Sri Lankan football teams playing friendly matches in the state.
The external affairs ministry’s warning said it regretted the intimidation of Sri Lankans visiting Tamil Nadu and advised citizens not to visit “in the interest of their security.”
India’s external affairs ministry said meanwhile that the government has taken measures to ensure the safety and well-being of all Sri Lanka visitors.
“I find it important to emphasise here that people-to-people contacts are an integral part of the close historical, cultural, ethnic and civilisational ties between India and Sri Lanka,” ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said.
A Sri Lankan Tamil leader condemned the attacks and said the behaviour of Tamil Nadu groups will only encourage Sinhalese extremists in Sri Lanka.
Mano Ganeshan said “no protest can take up ugly turns toward physical attacks on humans and destruction to properties.”
“Sri Lankan government too cannot bury its head and play innocent. It is shameful that we have let our local issues cross our shores due to our inabilities to find solutions to our own problems,” he said.