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Tuesday, March 22, 2011 - 07.11 GMT

India-SL bonhomie at Katchatheevu festival


The two-day St. Antony's church festival in Katchatheevu, an islet ceded to Sri Lanka by India in 1974, which concluded on Sunday brought back the camaraderie between the two nations, reported the Deccan Chronicle in a report published on 21 March.

Unlike last year, the Sri Lankan government had made all arrangements for the visiting Indian fishermen. About 2,900 Indian Tamils and 1,500 Lankan Tamils participated in the festival.

The annual festival began with the flag-hoisting ceremony and ended with a joint prayer session. Pilgrims of both countries sat in tents put up in the islet and shared lighter moments. Jaffna archbishop Justin Gnanaprakasam presided over the prayer session on Sunday.

Lankan Navy distributed food packets to all the pilgrims. Indian pilgrims were given special treatment, the report said. "The hospitality was good enough that they were given biscuits, ice cream and water bottles".

Based on the request of the pilgrims, the navy allowed Indian boats to be anchored on the Southern side of the islet. A temporary wooden bridge was put up to reach the shore.

Pilgrims who went from Rameswaram said this year the Lankan government had removed wild bushes and had cleared the way for them to reach the church. First-aid facilities and mobile medical vans were also in place. Besides, a special health committee formed for the festival provided medical aid. The pilgrims from both countries were allowed to set up shops and buy and sell their products. A foreign currency exchange outlet was established to facilitate trade.

The Rameswaram pilgrims expressed satisfaction about the arrangements. Justin of Thangachimadam said "festival went off very well this year. We wish that this amity continues," the report added.

Lankan Navy chief, Major General Mahendrakuthir Sinha, and other naval officials participated. Jaffna judge Vatan Anand Raja and Sivagangai priest Amalraj also attended.





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Last modified: March 22, 2011.

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