Targeted by Tamil groups, Lankan pilgrims forced to leave
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A group of 183 Sri Lankan pilgrims, including 83 women and 36 children, left Tamil Nadu on Tuesday night on a special flight arranged by the Lankan authorities after they faced protests by Tamil activists.
On Monday, a few hundred cadres belonging to outfits like VCK and Naam Thamilar Iyakkam reportedly heckled the group during a pilgrimage to the Poondi Matha church near Thanjavur.
Escorted out of the church on Tuesday morning and taken to a Christian shrine in neighbouring Vailankannai, the Lankans faced more protests. Later, three of the seven buses carrying the group to Trichy airport for their flight back home also faced protests.
With Sri Lanka issuing a travel advisory asking its citizens not to visit Tamil Nadu until further notice, an external affairs ministry spokesman assured in New Delhi that India would take "all measures to ensure their safety and security".
"We got reports that some people followed the pilgrims' group, intimidated, abused and attacked them with stones," Sri Lankan Deputy High Commissioner R K M A Rajakaruna said.
On Sunday, Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa ordered that a football team from Colombo, which played a friendly match against the Customs department in Chennai last week, be sent back. A stadium officer who gave permission for the football match was suspended.
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