By BosNewsLife Asia Service
NEW DELHI, INDIA (BosNewsLife)– India on Wednesday, September 5, pledged to step up security in its southern state of Tamil Nadu, after militants attacked Christians from nearby Sri Lanka for a second time when they tried to reach the local airport to fly home.
Buses carrying about 180 Sri Lankan Christians were hurled with sticks and stones by activists of hard-line Tamil groups on their way to Tiruchirapalli airport Tuesday, September 4, leaving three with bruises as they rushed out of the vehicles, police and eyewitnesses said.
Several buses were damaged, BosNewsLife monitored. At least one bus with the slogan ‘Praise the Lord’ had its front window smashed, according to pictures and video footage obtained by BosNewsLife.
At least 50 members of the ‘Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’ group were detained for their involvement in the attacks, Indian media reported.
Hours earlier, the Sri Lankans were attacked while traveling to worship and pray at Tamil Nadu’s famed Poornimatha Church in Thanjavur municipality nand the regional Velankanni Shrine Basilica, Christians and local media said.
The pilgrims, including 83 women and 36 children, were reportedly awaited by a 100-strong mob who demanded that they return to Sri Lanka immediately.
Though they managed to pray, protesters followed the believers everywhere, Christians said.
“In our 15 years of experience of pilgrimage to Velankanni and Poondi Matha basilicas, it’s the first time that we have faced problems. Had our government warned us, we would not have taken the pilgrimage,” said Selin, a 55-year-old woman from Colombo in remarks to Indian media.
Following the incidents, Indian police reportedly escorted the Christians, allowing them to fly back overnight.
India’s national government said it takes the latest anti-Christian violence seriously.
“The government of India, in close consultation with the concerned state governments, has taken and will continue to take all measures to ensure the safety, security
and well-being of Sri Lankan dignitaries and visitors to India, including to Tamil Nadu,” stressed India’s External Affairs ministry in published remarks.
The assurance came amid a travel advisory issued by Sri Lanka asking its citizen not to visit the Indian state of Tamil Nadu until further notice because of an “increasing number of instances of intimidation” of Sri Lankans there.
Tamil Nadu’s leadership and hardline groups have protested the India’s national government involvement in training Sri Lankan security forces.
Thousands of people were killed in Sri Lanka in fighting between the island’s army and independence seeking Tamil fighters, who enjoy at least moral support from India’s Tamil Nadu state.
Amid the turmoil, Indian authorities have come under international and domestic pressure from rights activists to improve protection of India’s Christian minority and visiting Christian tourists, especially in turbulent areas, including Tamil Nadu.