Sri Lanka war triggers strike in Indian Tamil state

NEW DELHI, February 4, 2009 (AFP) – Opposition political parties in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu called a general strike Wednesday to protest civilian casualties from the war in nearby Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka’s Tamils share close cultural and religious links with the 55 million Tamils in Tamil Nadu, which is also home to thousands of Sri Lankan Tamil refugees. The Press Trust of India reported that 8,000 police personnel were deployed on the streets of the state capital Chennai.

But aside from some state-owned buses being pelted with stones, the strike had little impact on daily life.

The Sri Lankan Tamils Protection Movement, an umbrella group of pro-Tamil Tiger parties, called the strike to show solidarity with the estimated 250,000 civilians trapped in Tiger-held territory in northeastern Sri Lanka.

Private buses and taxis stayed off the streets in the state’s second-largest city of Coimbatore, while more than half of businesses stayed shut, PTI said.

The state government has called the strike “illegal.”