Relief material from Chennai ready to leave for Sri Lanka

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Chennai, Nov 6 : Relief material comprising clothes, food and life saving drugs is ready to leave from Chennai for civilian population in conflict-hit northern Sri Lanka.

Nearly 80,000 relief packets containing necessary clothes and food material are ready to be transported to Sri Lanka.

Tamil Nadu government had decided to provide relief material to the island country, where Indian origin Tamil population is predominant.

Volunteers in Chennai city are these days busy preparing packets of clothes that would include daily wears for men and women. Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Corporation is also expediting the packing of food material like rice and pulses.

But the State Government has already clarified that the relief material would be sent only through the Red Cross and United Nations, while the Indian High Commission in Sri Lanka would oversee the distribution of relief material.

"We have demanded that relief material including life saving drugs be handed over to United Nations for dispersal to the Sri Lankan Tamils because we believe that if the relief goes into the hands of Sinhalese, it would not solve any purpose," said Thirumavalavan, leader, Dalit Panthers of India.

The total collection for the Sri Lankan Tamils Relief Fund set up by the State Government has crossed 80 million rupees.

Meanwhile, a local court in Chennai directed release of chief of Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), V. Gopalswamy, better known as Vaiko and party's chairman, M Kannappan on Thursday.

Vaiko and Kannappan were arrested on charges of making seditious statements on October 23, after threatening to take up arms in support of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at a rally where they accused Indian government of backing Sri Lankan army.

Vaiko after release again accused Indian government for attacks on Tamils and said that the integrity of the country will be jeopardized if the Tamils are destroyed in Sri Lanka.

"The Indian government is put in the dock, dock of the people. We will continue attack and at the same time we are committed to the unity and integrity of India. We are second to none. We need not get any sermon from anybody else for patriotism. But if you supply arms to kill Tamils in the island, the unity of this country will be destroyed," said Vaiko.

LTTE supporters in India say the government gives weapons to Sri Lanka, but New Delhi says it only provides non-lethal equipment. Diplomats say it also provides intelligence that has helped Sri Lanka intercept Tiger boats.

The escalating war in Sri Lanka has roiled Indian politics and prompted heated diplomatic exchanges between the neighbouring countries.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi's Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party had demanded a ceasefire between the Sri Lankan government forces and the LTTE, a militant group that has been fighting for a separate homeland for Sri Lankan Tamils since 1983.

External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee has ruled out any Indian involvement in solving the conflict, which the government says must be solved through dialogue.

During last week's talks with Sri Lankan government's special envoy in New Delhi, India had sought assurance from Colombo that all humanitarian steps would be taken to protect the ethnic Tamils in the island nation during the ongoing military offensive against the LTTE.

Indian government had also decided to provide 800 tonnes of relief material to the civilian population in conflict-hit northern Sri Lanka.

ANI

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