Hours before the Indian Foreign Secretary, Mr. Shiv Shankar Menon leaving for Colombo to discuss the latest humanitarian crisis facing the Sri Lankan Tamils with the Rajapaksha Government there, a prominent Dalit leader commencing a "fast-unto-death" in Tamil Nadu today has put the Police on tenterhooks.
The Dalit Panthers of India (DPI) leader, Thol Thirumavalavan suddenly began an "indefinite fast" near the township office at Maraimalainagar, 35 km from here, demanding immediate ceasefire in Sri Lanka and "ending the war against the Tamils" as the Island Army closes in on the last stronghold of the rebel Tamil Tigers in Mullaitivu.
Mr. Thirumavalavan, a known LTTE supporter, had sought permission to go on fast near the Government Guest House in the city, but Police allowed his party to organize only a day's fast at best. Angered DPI cadres led by their leader then left the venue in a huff and their speeding convoy soon hit the South-bound National Highway.
When Thirumavalavan's car reached Maraimalianagar well outside the city, the Dalit leader suddenly stopped and squatted along with his 500-strong party-men in pursuance of an "indefinite fast", Police sources said. He has no permission for the fast even at the second venue. Leaders of several other Tamil outfits, including Mr. P. Nedumaran, are also at Maraimalianagar now, extending moral support for his fast.
This sudden frenzied piece of political action by the DPI sparked tension in Maraimalainagar area, but there was no cause for alarm, Police said. "We have no instructions from the Government yet on whether to remove the fasters from the scene or not," sources told HT this evening.
Meanwhile, the PMK leader and another vocal supporter of the Sri Lankan Tamils cause, Dr. S. Ramadoss, in a statement urged that India should call off its cricket tour to Sri Lanka slated for later this month, protesting the Island Government's killing of Tamils there.