Sri Lankans visiting the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu will be required to register with the local Police so that they could be provided special security, the country’s envoy there said yesterday.
V. Krishnamoorthy, Deputy High Commissioner for Sri Lanka in the Tamil Nadu capital of Chennai, said the move followed concerns he raised with the Police after reports of Lankan pilgrims being assaulted.
Eighty four Sri Lankan pilgrims came under attack by a group identifying themselves as members of ‘Nan Thamilan’ (I am Tamil) on Wednesday. The pilgrims were shopping in Chennai after their visit to Buddha Gaya when they were attacked. The T-shirts worn by the pilgrims with Sinhala words imprinted were torn and burnt by the gang.
Mr. Krishnamoorthy told the Sunday Times in a telephone interview from Chennai that the Tamil Nadu Police had sent out instructions to their divisions to register Sri Lankan pilgrims and their places of stay.
In a circular, police officers have been instructed to provide adequate security to Sri Lankan visitors, especially pilgrims.
He said Sri Lankan pilgrims and others arriving in Chennai would now have to register with the police at the airport before proceeding further so that they could be provided special security.
“Furthermore, tour operators handling pilgrimages will also have to give the names of the travellers to the Deputy High Commission office prior to departure from Colombo so that we also can give special attention to them,” he said.
The Deputy High Commissioner appealed to Lankan pilgrims and other visitors to stay in close touch with the mission office at all times during their stay as a precautionary measure.
Meanwhile, a leading tour operator yesterday called for the cancellation of the Chennai sector in these pilgrimages as future attacks could not be ruled out.
Inland Tour Operators Association of Sri Lanka President Nilmi Nanayakkara said the Government had the right to demand 100 per cent safety for all Sri Lankans visiting that country, pilgrims or otherwise.
He added that most of the pilgrims using the Chennai route are budget travellers who make it to Dambadiva in the north either by road or rail and this invovled a certain amount of risk.
“The bulk of these budget tours are offered by two state banks and a host of others from Buddhist temples to middlemen,” Mr. Nanayakkara said.