Around 400 members across 15 political outfits, including MDMK, ThanthaiPeriyarDiravidaKazhagam (TPDK), VCK, Tamil Desam, Tamil EalamViduthalai Students' Organization, gathered at the Manekshaw Bridge, widely known as Black Bridge Junction in Wellington on Tuesday, and staged a protest against the training of two Sri Lankan officers allegedly undergoing training at the Defence Services Staff College (DSSC) located within the Wellington cantonment area. They demanded that the central government send the officers back home.
The party cadres raised slogans against the Sri Lankan army and the Centre. Several people had come from Coimbatore to take part in the protest. An effigy of Mahindra Rajapaksa, Premier of Sri Lanka was burnt at the venue. Traffic was blocked for about an hour on the Coonoor-Ooty road from noon.
Alleging that Tamils in Sri Lanka are suffering in the hands of the Lankan army, S Manivannan, MDMK Ooty town secretary told TOI, "Just three days after the Union defence minister assured us that no training programmes would be imparted to Sri Lankan army personnel in Tamil Nadu, two Sri Lankan men have joined the training programme at DSSC". The protest by various parties came in the wake of the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's letter to the PM.
"Till date, there have been no problems with the two officers undergoing training at DSSC either from the union government or from the DSSC officials," said Ramakrishnan, state general secretary, TPDK. He accused the Centre of not feeling the pulse of the Tamils. "We will not tolerate such insensitivity," he added.
The TPDK and other outfits plan to protest in front of the Congress offices across the state and central government establishments if the two Sri Lankan army personnel are not sent back home. Tamil Ealam Viduthalai Students' Organisation's coordinator, G Perumal, said that if the Lankans were not sent back home, students would stage agitations once colleges reopen on July 1.
The police, under the direct supervision of the Nilgiris SP, T Senthil Kumar, has provided a three-tier protection for the Wellington Cantonment area. About 321 police personnel, including QRT personnel, special police, reserve police, traffic police, and local police have been deployed at the venue.
The protesters were arrested by police and kept in a mandapam in Coonoor till evening, when they were released. According to M Madasamy, Coonoor DSP, who supervised the security arrangements at Wellington, about 375 persons, including 11 women, were arrested including 132 MDMK members , 91 TPDK and 71 VCK members.
DSSC officials refuse to speak about the issue citing defence protocol.
DSSC, one of the oldest military institutions in the country, situated within the Wellington Cantonment area near Coonoor in the Nilgiris is one of the few institutions where training is imparted to officers of all three services, namely, Army, Navy and Air force in addition to selected officers of the paramilitary and civil services and officers from friendly foreign countries.