Massive protests rock Chennai as PM Modi arrives


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Chaos ruled the highway connecting Tamil Nadu’s capital with Tiruchirapalli for several hours on Thursday morning as hundreds of cadre belonging to various political outfits blocked the roads and displayed black fags in protest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s day-long visit.

Giant balloons in black colour with "GoBackModi" written all over them were released at various locations near the Chennai Airport, where Modi’s special aircraft landed around 9.30 am on Thursday, even as ace directors Bharathiraaja, Ameer and Vetri Maran landed at the arrival area of the airport and shouted slogans against the Prime Minister’s visit.

Major roads leading the airport witnessed bumper-to-bumper traffic as vehicles moved at a snail pace for more than 4 kilometres, causing severe inconvenience to thousands of people, especially fliers. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s vehicle was caught in the heavy traffic snarl and he was forced to walk more than a kilometre to reach the airport to welcome the Prime Minister, who later flew to Thiruvidanthai, 40 km from here, to inaugurate the Defence Expo.

The outfits are protesting Modi’s visit accusing him of acting against the interests of Tamil Nadu by delaying setting up of Cauvery Management Board with an eye on May 12 Karnataka Elections. The call which was first given by principal Opposition DMK was lapped up by almost every other outfit barring the ruling AIADMK, its splinter group led by T T V Dhinakaran and the BJP which jumped into the fray to show black flags to the visiting Prime Minister.

Black flags were hoisted atop the residences of top Opposition leaders, including those belonging to DMK chief M Karunanidhi and working president M K Stalin, since Thursday morning, even as cadre belonging to fringe outfit, Tamizhaga Vaazhurimai Katchi, released giant balloons in black in large numbers to show their protest against the Prime Minister’s visit.

Cadres of Naam Tamizhar climbed onto giant hoardings in the vicinity of the Airport and showed black flags. Though the Prime Minister will avoid stepping onto major roads, the protesters said their agitation was symbolic but powerful since thousands of common people were on the streets protesting the delay in constituting Cauvery Management Board.

Black was the colour of the day as Stalin, his allies Thol Thirumavalavan, R Mutharasan, G Ramakrishnan and other leaders continued their Cauvery Rights Retrieval walk for the sixth day clad in black shirts. Though the city police had made elaborate security arrangements, groups of protesters sneaked into the airport and shouted slogans against Modi’s visit.

Unwilling to take chances, the Special Protection Group (SPG) that guards the Prime Minister and the Chennai Police made several changes to Modi’s itinerary to avoid his cavalcade on the main roads. After inaugurating the Defence Expo, Modi will take a chopper to reach Chennai to attend the Diamond Jubilee celebrations of the Adyar Cancer Institute.

To avoid getting onto the Sardar Patel Road, a wall connecting the Cancer Institute with Children’s Park has been demolished to ensure direct entry into the hospital from IIT-Madras, where the Prime Minister’s chopper will land. The chopper will land at the cricket ground of the prestigious institution raising the hackles of environmentalists who say landing of the helicopter will cause massive stress to animals in the campus and at the Guindy National Park located just metres away.

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