Chennai: Massive protests greeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he paid a whirlwind visit to Chennai with helicopter as the chosen mode of transport amid a state-wide agitation demanding a Cauvery Management Board (CMB).
Black flags and balloons and activists in black shirts and trousers with “Go Back Modi” placards marked the day while protests were also held throughout Tamil Nadu against the Prime Minister’s brief visit to the state against the Centre’s failure to set up the CMB despite a Supreme Court order.
Black flags were hoisted on homes and business establishments across the state. A political activist said it appeared to be the biggest anti-Modi protest in any state since he became the Prime Minister in May 2014.
In a bid to avoid protesters, Modi, who arrived here by a special aircraft in the morning, flew by helicopter to reach Tiruvidanthai in neighbouring Kanchipuram district where he opened the 10th DefExpo organised by the Defence Ministry. From there he took another chopper to come to IIT Madras, in the heart of the city.
From there, he took a one-kilometre ride by car to the neighbouring Adyar Cancer Institute for an event.
The Prime Minister walked a few steps from the helicopter to the car that ferried him to the Cancer Institute. As he did so, he encountered some 30 students from IIT Madras who stood silently but held posters demanding a Cauvery Management Board — an issue which has whipped up emotions in Tamil Nadu.
Modi then left by helicopter to the airport before returning to Delhi.
#Go back Modi trended on top as netizens took to the cyberspace to register their protest against the Central government’s failure to set up the CMB as directed by the Supreme Court to ensure proper sharing of Cauvery waters between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka and other states.
DMK leader M.K. Stalin, on a padayatra of the Cauvery delta areas, wore black shirt and trousers as he protested along with state Congress President Thirunavukkarasar and CPI-M state unit chief Mutharasan.
“The Prime Minister may be flying in the air today but he has to come down when the elections come,” Stalin said.
A black flag was hoisted at DMK chief M. Karunanidhi’s residence. The ailing leader wore a black shirt. Blackflags were also unfurled at the residences of DK leader Veeramani and MDMK chief Vaiko.
DMK MP Tiruchi Siva and leaders of DMK allies wore black dress and marched on the road near the Chennai airport.
In the morning outside the Chennai airport, activists of the Federation for protection of Tamil Art and Culture, led by noted film director Bharatiraja and other film personalities like Amir, Gautaman and Vetrimaran protested against Modi’s visit. They were arrested.
Vaiko held a black flag protest in Saidapet, Naam Thamizhar Katch convenor Seeman, a film director, was in Pallavaram. Vaiko called Modi a “coward” for choosing to fly. Political leaders Velmurugan and P. Nedumaran were arrested from Alandur metro station in Chennai for holding black flag protests.
Tamil Nadu has been in turmoil since the six-week period for setting up the Board expired, with opposition parties and a host of fringe Tamil groups attacking the Centre, saying the BJP was interested only in winning the Assembly elections in Karnataka.
Even the hugely-popular IPL cricket matches have been shifted out of Chennai to Pune in view of the disturbances on Tuesday.
In his speeches at the two functions, Modi avoided any reference to the hot button issue.
Modi, who inaugurated the 10th DefExpo organised by the Defence Ministry and later spoke at the Adyar Cancer Insitute in Chennai, did not refer to the demand for setting up of the CMB.
However, at the defence trade fair, he sought to woo Tamils by wishing them a happy new year on Saturday. He also referred to a couplet of Tamil savant Thiruvalluvar in which he had said that knowledge grows with reading just like water springs forth as sandy fount is dug deeper.
Amidst the protests, Chief Minister K. Palaniswami urged Modi to immediately set up the Cauvery Management Board.
In a memorandum to Modi, Palaniswami recalled the February 16 Supreme Court verdict that said that a scheme be formulated by the Central government within six weeks to “implement the notified final order of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal as modified by its judgment”.
On April 9, the apex court clearly stated that the final order of the CWDT had “merged with the judgment of the Supreme Court”, he said.
With inputs from IANS