Congress plays safe on DMK protests against Sri Lankan President's visit

Chennai, Feb 8 (ANI): Playing safe on the ongoing protests in Tamil Nadu by the DMK, a key ally of the Congress-led UPA Government, against Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse's visit, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari on Friday said the engagement with Colombo in no way means that the Centre is insensitive or tends to undermine the concerns, which a section of the population of India may legitimately have.

Tewari said the government understands the sensitivities, which are involved with regard to the issue of Sri Lankan Tamils especially here in Tamil Nadu.

"We are engaged with the issue. We are absolutely in sync with some of the concerns, which have been articulated. And that is why at the United Nations Human Rights Commission, the Government of India had walked the extra mile, but then westphalian states also need to engage with each other. And therefore, I don't think these two issues are mutually incompatible," said Tewari.

"And engagement with Sri Lanka in no way means that we are insensitive or we tend to undermine the concerns, which a section of the population of India may legitimately have," he added.

DMK chief M Karunanidhi today led protests in Chennai against the Sri Lankan President's visit. Political parties in Tamil Nadu want the Sri Lanka Government to be held accountable for alleged atrocities against Sri Lankan Tamils, who are in a minority in the country.

Karunanidhi has said the protest under the banner of the Tamil Eelam Supporters Organisation (TESO) is aimed at sending a clear message to the Sri Lankan President as well as to the Centre.

"The Central Government should realise at least now that the island government is not keeping its promises after the Sri Lankan President ruled out autonomy for Tamil areas," he added.

The DMK had earlier asked the Centre not to encourage the visit of the Sri Lankan President to India.

The party strongly criticised Rajapaksa for ruling out greater political autonomy for Tamils, saying India should at least "wake up" now and help secure their livelihood and democratic rights.

Last year, at the United Nations Human Rights Council session in Geneva India supported a resolution, sponsored by the US, for 'promoting reconciliation and accountability' in Sri Lanka after its army won a 26-year-long civil war by defeating the rebel Tamil Tigers.

The DMK had warned the Centre that it would pull out of the UPA Government if India did not vote against Sri Lanka.

Rajapakse, who is visiting Bodhgaya and Tirupati over the next two days, will not have separate engagements with the Indian leaders. (ANI)