Protests against Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa's proposed visit to Sanchi have gained momentum in Tamil Nadu. On Monday, while MDMK (Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) was the first off the block with a rally to Sanchi, an auto-rickshaw driver attempted self-immolation in Salem.
Shouting slogans against Rajapaksa's visit, Vijayaraj, 26, had doused himself with petrol and set himself on fire at the city's old bus stand in the morning. He suffered 95% burns and is battling for life at a local hospital, said a police officer.
In the evening, MDMK general secretary Vaiko's bus convoy left Chennai for Sanchi, where he plans to hold a protest.
The Sri Lankan president will be in Sanchi on September 21 to lay the foundation stone of a proposed centre for Buddhist studies.
Political parties in Tamil Nadu hold Rajapaksa responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka in the final stages of the battle against the LTTE. They want him to be tried for war crimes. Last year, the Tamil Nadu assembly had even passed a unanimous resolution seeking economic sanctions against Sri Lanka.
Earlier, Vaiko had written to Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, asking him to not allow Rajapaksa to lay the Buddhist study centre's foundation stone. On Saturday, Chouhan wrote back, asking Vaiko to give up his opposition.
"We cannot compromise on the issue," MDMK spokesperson Nand Maran told HT.
"We will hold a peaceful black flag demonstration at Sanchi."
Vaiko plans to reach Bhopal by September 20 along with 2,000 party workers, travelling the entire 1,500 km by road.