New Delhi: More than a month after being taken in by the Sri Lankan Police in Colombo in April — allegedly for distributing cash and food items to locals there — a businessman based in Telangana’s Nizamabad, who identified himself as Ravinder Reddy, is keen to make his experience public.
Reddy claims he was let go within hours of being taken in for questioning by Sri Lanka Police’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID), owing to intervention by the Indian High Commission there.
“Every month I go to Sri Lanka. For the past four-five months, I have been going regularly. I stay there for 9-21 days. I have also participated in the Galle Face [mass protests in Colombo against President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and his administration] for two to three days and distributed food and money,” Reddy told ThePrint.
According to Reddy, he has been distributing money and food to Sri Lankans to help them amid the economic crisis facing the island nation, manifesting in the form of inflation and shortage of essential items, such as fuel, food and medicines.
The businessman claimed he had distributed money worth Rs 5 lakh in Indian currency — in Sri Lankan notes of 500 and 1,000 denominations — on the trip, during which he was taken in by the police.
Videos shared by Reddy with ThePrint appear to show him giving away cash to Sri Lankans gathered around him. According to Reddy, the videos were taken by Sri Lankan CID officials, who had shared them with his son.
“The CID people took picture[s] of me, [then] they caught me,” claimed Reddy.
S.S.P. Thalduwa, Sri Lanka Police media spokesperson, told ThePrint, “He (Reddy) had not been arrested. Only his statement was recorded and he was released.”
ThePrint reached the Indian High Commission in Colombo through email for comment, but received no response till the publishing of this article. The story will be updated once a response is received.
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Hope of return
Talking to ThePrint Sunday, Reddy said, “One Indian embassy official came to my rescue and sent me back.”
The businessman claimed the Sri Lankan CID had asked him why he was in the country and why he was distributing money. Adding that he had not been taken in for long, Reddy also clarified that the Sri Lankan CID officers had not mistreated him.
According to Reddy, the Indian High Commission official had remained with him at the CID office for about five to six hours and had also reached his “son to book a ticket for him and fly [him] back to Madras (Chennai)”.
Official sources based in Colombo confirmed that Reddy had not been arrested by the police. The sources said that he was taken in for extending his support to protestors in Colombo while on a tourist visa to Sri Lanka.
The nation issues tourist visas only for “bona-fide tourists who want to enter Sri Lanka for sightseeing, excursions, relaxation, visit relatives or yoga training for a short period of time”, and does not necessarily cover “social work, charity or any other form of voluntary work”.
Sources also confirmed that intervention by the Indian High Commission had been instrumental in his return to India.
The run-in with Sri Lankan CID does not seem to have hampered Reddy’s zeal to help citizens of the island nation. The businessman told ThePrint that he planned to visit Sri Lanka again to continue distributing money and medicines among locals, and to help fund medical equipment for a hospital in Colombo.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)
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