Indian flags not allowed to Kachchatheevu festival

Indian flags not allowed to Kachchatheevu festival

February 27, 2012   11:30 am

Close on the heels of intelligence inputs that “some elements and cadres of a few fringe political parties” in Tamil Nadu, who are fighting for the retrieval of Kachchatheevu from Sri Lanka, may hoist Indian flag during St. Antony’s Church festival in Kachchatheevu on March 3 and 4, the Indian security agencies have made a blanket ban on pilgrims or fishermen to carry Indian flag in any form.

Speaking to The Hindu on Sunday, Commander Anirudha Sohini, Area Commander, South, Naval Detachment, Rameswaram, said there was absolutely no problem in allowing the pilgrims to visit Kachchatheevu.

However, no one would be allowed to carry the Indian flags. The fishermen boats, which had been allowed to carry the pilgrims, could not fix the Indian flags in their boats for identification. It was aimed at preventing unnecessary problems.

Asked whether the agencies had received specific inputs about the move of fringe elements, he said the security agencies had been closely monitoring the activities of some elements and developments.

Nothing could be ruled out in this regard. It was one of the important points discussed in the recently held security meeting that focused on the proposed visit of Indian pilgrims to Kachchatheevu. Mr. Sohini said that a Common Security System and a Common Operation Centre had been established at the Naval Detachment in Rameswaram for sharing intelligence inputs and ensuring safe passage of pilgrims. The pilgrims, who embarked on boats for Kachchatheevu, would have to undergo complete frisking by immigration, customs and the police authorities.

There was no need for them to possess passport or visa, but they should have registered with the authorities concerned before Tuesday.

The Common Operation Centre would consist of Indian Navy, Coast Guard and the police. Pilgrims could not carry prohibited items, plastics and commercially valued items so as to avoid illegal exchange of goods and transactions in Kachchatheevu.

The Commander said patrolling along the International Maritime Boundary Line had been intensified. Besides regular patrolling, ships from Chennai would be deployed to ensure safe passage of pilgrims.

Similarly, ships of Coast Guard would also be deployed. Vessels and boats would patrol from Rameswaram up to IMBL. Each one would accompany a group of 7 or 8 boats. Emergency service would be launched within no time in the event of any eventuality. – The Hindu

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