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Leader fasts for S Lanka Tamils

[BBC, Monday, 9 March 2009 10:40 No Comment]

A leading Indian politician is on a day-long fast to express solidarity with the Sri Lankan Tamils.

Former chief minister of southern Tamil Nadu state, J Jayalalitha, is demanding an immediate ceasefire in Sri Lanka.


In January, India asked Colombo to ensure that civilians trapped by the fighting in the north were protected.


India has a sizeable Tamil population and the authorities are under pressure to take a stronger line against Colombo’s military offensive.


The military says it is involved in a final push against retreating rebels.



The leader of Tamil Nadu’s opposition AIADMK party, J Jayalalitha began her day-long fast at 0900 IST (0330GMT) on Monday in the southern city of Madras (Chennai).


Several of her party leaders have also begun similar fasts at the district headquarters of the AIADMK.


The party is collecting donations to provide relief to Sri Lankan Tamils.


"The [Congress party-led] UPA government [in Delhi] failed miserably by not dispatching immediate humanitarian aid," Ms Jayalalitha was quoted as saying by the Press Trust of India news agency.


She said the government in Delhi or the state’s ruling party DMK "have no genuine concerns" for the Sri Lankan Tamil people.


The fast "would not bring relief to the hunger-struck Tamils" but it would convey the "sentiments and anger of the people of Tamil Nadu against the state and the central government", she said.


Ms Jayalalitha is known to be a critic of the Tamil Tigers and correspondents say her fast is being seen more as an attempt to remain in the political limelight now that general elections are due in India in a few weeks.


Sri Lanka’s minority Tamil community has close cultural, religious and business ties with more than 50 million Tamils in Tamil Nadu.


In January, Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa said he had invited the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Muthuvel Karunanidhi, and Ms Jayalalitha to come to Sri Lanka to "see for themselves the situation on the ground and to persuade the [Tamil Tigers] to lay down arms and join the democratic mainstream".


The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has warned the battle is causing a humanitarian crisis. It says hundreds of civilians have been killed and a quarter of a million people are trapped by the fighting.

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