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‘We are not slaves!’ - Anti-Indian sentiment flares in Sri Lanka after VFS visa scandal

A protest was held outside the Immigration and Emigration Department in Colombo last month, as anti-Indian sentiment flared in the wake of controversy over VFS Global, a private firm tasked with issuing visas at the Bandaranaike International Airport. 

“We are not a slave of Indian hegemony,” one protester told the media, according to a report in the Sri Lanka Guardian. “We will continue this protest in very strong terms if the government does not take proper action,” she added.

“As you can see, we are in front of the National Immigration Office here to protest against the decision to transfer the right of our state to issue visas to visiting foreigners, non-Sri Lankan citizens, through an Indian proxy campaign,” said another. “We see this incident not as a standalone issue, but as an interconnected issue of the wider Indian efforts to take over strategic sectors of our economy and our state.”

 “Akhand Bharat never existed in history and it will never be. But nevertheless, our corrupt politicians in this government and also in the opposition who want to come to power with Indian help think if they cooperate with India, it will be easier for them to take over,” remarked yet another protester.

“Already the Mattala airport has been given to Indian management. We see how the efforts have been taken to sign ECTA, an extremely draconian free trade agreement that serves the interest of the Indian state, but not the Sri Lankan populace or the Sri Lankan state,” claimed another demonstrator.

“When people return from overseas, this will be an Indian country,” a protestor told individuals who had come to the Department of Emigration and Immigration to obtain a new passport. “Ranil Wickremesinghe has said he will sell these lands to India. We are losing money through this deal with VFS, it's all going to India. The country’s national security rests with India.”

Meanwhile, Sinhala Buddhist monk Battaramulla Seelarathne charged that there has been an increase in murders, whilst at the same time Sri Lanka is being sold off by its president. “I ask of you, who gave permission or what law permitted VFS to have the authority of issuing visas," he questioned. "Why was this Indian company given such power? Why do we have to answer to these Indians at the airport to enter our country.”

Chaos ensued at the Bandaranaike International Airport earlier this month, after an irate Sri Lankan man berated officials for reportedly allowing Indian firms to take over the issuance of visas on behalf of Sri Lankans. A viral video shows the individual in question arguing with officials at the airport after his companion was apparently denied a visa. The Indian High Commission in Colombo was forced to deny any Indian involvement with issuing visas in Sri Lanka.

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa in a post on X alleged that the “only logical explanation is absolute corruption” for the visa deal.

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