The Defence Expo 2018 was formally inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Tamil Nadu on Thursday. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Tamil Nadu governor Banwarilal Purohit Tamil Nadu chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam and representatives of several countries attended the event.
Modi used the mega exhibition as a platform to highlight the measures taken by his government to boost defence production in India. Addressing the gathering at his first ever visit to a defence exposition, Modi lauded the efforts of the defence ministry and said that he was pleased to see over 500 Indian and over 150 foreign firms participating in the exposition.
The purpose of the Defence Expo was to alter the image of India from an importer of defence products to an exporter of defence products. However, protests by members of several political parties, including the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), threatened to steal the limelight from the Defence Expo.
A host of protesters across Tamil Nadu, holding black flags and black balloons, protested against what they called the Centre’s failure to form the Cauvery management board despite the Supreme Court’s order. Protesters planted black flags on the way and also arrived at the Chennai airport in large numbers, even as 10,000 policemen stood guard to prevent any untoward event.
The protests forced the prime minister to keep away from roads, and rely on a chopper instead to carry out his engagements.
As Modi’s convoy passed through the sprawling IIT-Madras campus as it made its way to the Cancer Institute in Chennai, where the prime minister was to open the Diamond Jubilee Building, some individuals in the crowd briefly raised placards against the central government on the Cauvery issue.
Whether black flags or balloons with the slogan “Go Back Modi or the hashtag #GoBackModi on Twitter, they highlighted the mood of the protestors of various parties, the including DMK.
In Chennai, black flags were also hoisted atop the residences of several farmers and DMK workers in parts of the state, including Coimbatore, Madurai, Virudhunagar, Dindigul, Karur and Ramanathapuram.
Black flags were also hoisted at the residences of DMK chief M Karunanidhi, party working president MK Stalin, Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi and other leaders.
Stalin tweeted photographs of the protest and took aim at Modi saying, “You’re someone who flies around in aeroplanes, so look at the black flags that are fluttering as a symbol of our sentiments. Immediately withdraw the case filed in the Supreme Court. Otherwise, the fire in our protests will never extinguish.”
Cadres of CPI and CPM also participated in the DMK-led demonstrations to protest against Modi’s visit.
The wheel-chair bound Karunanidhi sported a black shirt instead of his usual white at his residence. Similarly, Stalin, his sister Kanimozhi and second-rung leaders, including former Chennai Mayor Subramanian, also wore black.
Ahead of Modi’s arrival at the airport in Chennai at around 9 am, protesters began congregating in the vicinity of the airport. Veteran film director Bharathiraja and film-maker Ameer were among those who held demonstrations near the airport, raising slogans against the prime minister over the Cauvery issue.
Besides the DMK’s black flag protest, Tamizhaga Vazhvurimai Katchi led by T Velmurugan and volunteers of the Tamizhar Vazhvuirimai Kootamaippu (TVK), an umbrella body of Tamil outfits, also held demonstrations near the airport.
Around 10 volunteers of TVK climbed atop a giant billboard in the vicinity of the airport as part of the demonstration. They climbed down after being persuaded by the police and Bharathiraja, and were detained by the police.
Manithaneya Jananayaga Katchi led by MLA M Thamimun Ansari, Nam Tamizhar Katchi leader Seeman and pro-Tamil leader Nedumaran wore black shirts and staged a protest in the vicinity of the airport before eventually being detained.
According to DMK’s Subramanian, while over 2000 black balloons were released in various parts of the city, a giant balloon with the slogan “Modi Go Back,” was placed on the terrace of his residence.
MDMK chief Vaiko also led a protest with black flags and balloons outside the Raj Bhavan in Chennai against Modi’s visit to the state over the Cauvery issue. Traffic snarls were witnessed around the airport and in its surrounding areas due to the protests.