Security was tightened in and around the Tamil Nadu capital on Sunday ahead of the funeral of a man who set himself ablaze in support of the Sri Lankan Tamils, an issue that has led to widespread violence in the city.
S Siva Prakasam, 60, a retired driver of the state-owned transport corporation, set himself on fire on Saturday evening during a state-wide human chain protest in Guindy area organised by the ruling DMK's treasurer and Local Administration Minister MK Stalin, seeking an early end to the civil war in Sri Lanka, family sources said.
Admitted to the Kilpauk Medical College and Hospital with over 65 per cent burns, Prakasam succumbed to his injuries around midnight, hospital sources said.
Officials said additional security personnel had been deployed to prevent any untoward incident during the funeral.
"The victim resided in Semmanchery (in the outskirts of Chennai), where many IT offices are situated. As we don't want the anger of the mourners to result in destruction of property, heavy protection has been ordered," a police official said.
Prakasam's son said his father was passionate about the plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka, but never imagined he would give up his life for the cause.
"He used to constantly rant about the plight of the suffering Tamils in Sri Lanka and talk of doing something to register his protest. We didn't believe him then and now he is dead," S Kumar, the victim's son, told IANS.
Stalin too recognised Prakasam's sacrifice.
"This humble DMK worker is a real martyr since he had in his possession a letter addressed to our leader and Chief Minister (M Karunanidhi). We are sad about this unfortunate incident," Stalin told reporters after visiting the hospital Prakasam was admitted to along with his sister and Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi.
Stalin's statement comes in the wake of reports that some of the five earlier victims had ended their lives for personal reasons and their suicides were allegedly 'claimed' by various political groups as 'martyrdom'.
Meanwhile, the acting Chief Justice of the Madras High Court S Mukhopadhyay ordered the closure of all legal establishments till Tuesday to effect the repair of buildings scarred after three days of violence.
During the past three days, the high court premises had been tense after lawyers protesting against the central and state governments' alleged inaction in the Sri Lankan Tamil tangle clashed with the police. Over 200 lawyers were arrested Friday.
Mukhopadhyay also asked the registrar and city Police Commissioner K Radhakrishnan to file explanatory statements on the identity of those officials who ordered the baton charge within the high court premises.
The violence was a fallout of what had happened in the Madras High Court Tuesday when some lawyers hurled rotten eggs at Janata Party president Subramanian Swamy for his opposition to the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka.
Swamy on Sunday said that the state's law and order situation was "so brittle that a single egg flung on his face exposed the sorry state of affairs" in Tamil Nadu.
"Now, the police and the fringe political elements have egg all over their faces," Swamy told IANS on phone from New Delhi.
"All these betray the fact that terrorism in Sri Lanka is on its last legs," he added.