Chennai police to ban Lankans

The Chennai city police has in a shocking move instructed hotels in the city not to accommodate pilgrims from Sri Lanka after two attacks on visitors from the island nation.

The knee-jerk reaction by the police has led to pilgrims cancelling their plans to visit the Maha Bodhi Society in Chennai.

“A few hotels and lodges in North Chennai are denying rooms to the pilgrims from the Maha Bodhi Society, citing orders from the police,” said officials of the society.

With season for pilgrimage commencing from the end of July, the Maha Bodhi Society, a religious centre which can accommodate only 250 people, is now struggling to find place to accommodate the overwhelming pilgrims. Now that hotels are turning them away, the pilgrims say they have no place to stay.

The Lankan nationals say the police action is like insult added to injury.

When contacted, additional commissioner of police (law and order) Thamarai Kannan denied that the police had issued instructions to hotels not to take Lankans as guests.

Hotels say they were ordered by cops

While the Chennai police has in an outrageous step allegedly instructed hotels and lodges not to provide accommodation to Sri Lankan pilgrims and then denied that any such instruction had been issued, officials at a hotel in Egmore who refused to give rooms to the pilgrims last week told them that they were acting on the directions of the city police.

“Two pilgrimage organisers in Sri Lanka were forced to cancel their bookings after a hotels in Egmore and other localities in north Chennai turned down their request for rooms,” said an official of the Maha Bodhi Society in the city.

“A few pilgrimage organisers have cancelled their visits to Chennai and instead headed for Delhi en route to Bodhgaya,” he said. “Around two lakh pilgrims visit the society every year. There is every chance that the numbers will fall if this persecution continues.”

That the cops reportedly took the unconsidered decision after two attacks on visitors from the island nation has angered the pilgrims.

However, the official said a few other hotels in and around Egmore are defying the police diktat and are providing them with rooms. Before providing them with rooms, the hotels officials take details of the pilgrims and keep copies of their pilgrimage visas and passports that they forward to the police.

Wrong end of the stick?

August 2, 2011:
A group threatens and attacks pilgrims. After assaulting them, they are made to remove their T-shirts with Sinhalese script and burn them.

January 24, 2011:
Four Buddhist monks from Lanka are attacked by cadres of Periyar Dravida Kazhagam at Maha Bodhi Society in Egmore.

Source: Asian Age / DM Online