Protests greet Rajapaksa

Timely police action on Friday foiled efforts to disturb the spiritual tour of Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to Bodhgaya.

Eight cadres, belonging to All India Students Association (Aisa) and Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA), were detained, while Nandkishore Singh and Mahendra Singh of Aurangabad district were arrested when they tried to raise slogans against Rajapaksa. The President, at that time, was at the entry gate of the world heritage Mahabodhi Mahavihara. The duo, holding placards in their hands, stood in the crowd, merely 25m away from the President.

Gaya senior superintendent of police (SSP) Vinay Kumar told The Telegraph that the duo would be booked under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Eight other protesters were detained near the hotel where chief minister Nitish Kumar had organised a state lunch for the President and his delegation.

Tight security arrangements were made in and around Bodhgaya for Rajapaksa's visit. The President was accompanied by his wife, secretary Lalith Weeratunga, Sri Lankan high commissioner in India Prasad Kariyawasam and others.

CPI-ML (Liberation) district secretary Niranjan Kumar said activists of Aisa and RYA had to register their protest against the President's visit because of his "involvement in the killing of Tamils in Sri Lanka". The activists demanded that a case of massacre of Sri Lankan Tamils be instituted against Rajapaksa.

The chief minister received the President at Gaya airport in the morning. The President's motorcade drove straight to the Mahavihara. Rajapaksa and his delegation members, accompanied by Nitish, offered prayers before the Buddha's statue in the sanctum sanctorum. The President meditated under the sacred Bodhi tree for nearly one hour.

The President wrote in the visitors' register "It is a privilege of a life time to be able to worship the most noble, most venerated Buddha Gaya."

Thereafter, Rajapaksa visited the Maha Bodhi Society of India (MSI), where MSI general secretary D. Rewatha Thero and MSI, Bodhgaya branch monk-in-charge H. Saddhathissa Thero welcomed him. The President offered prayers before the Buddha statue in Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi Vihara and inaugurated the golden railings of the peepal (banyan) tree planted on the campus after being brought from Anuradhapurum in Sri Lanka last year.

Rajapaksa distributed gifts among 50 poor women and met 20 representatives of all religions under the banner of Inter-faith Forum.

At the state lunch, Nitish presented Rajapaksa a replica of the Mahavihara and a cloth to his wife. The President's chartered plane took off from Gaya airport around 3.15pm.

Vaiko detained

MDMK chief Vaiko and his supporters were detained when they tried to march towards the Prime Minister's residence in New Delhi to protest Rajapaksa's visit to the country, reports PTI.

Vaiko and his supporters protested at Jantar Mantar on Friday morning, demanding that India close down the Sri Lankan High Commission in the capital. "We will not forgive the Manmohan Singh government for supporting Sri Lanka in its war against Tamils," Vaiko said, addressing his supporters.


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