A Tamil guerrilla leader died Saturday after a 12-day fast, sending angry crowds into the streets to protest the refusal of Sri Lanka and India to meet demands presented by his rebel organization.
Police said demonstrators marched through the streets of Jaffna, shouting anti-government slogans and burning buses. They said all shops and businesses closed in a spontaneous general strike across the Jaffna Peninsula in northern Sri Lanka.
Amirthalingam Thileepan, 23, had refused for 12 days to eat food or drink water. He had been leader of the political wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the most powerful of the Tamil separatist groups.
Two other members of the organization immediately took over the fast, vowing to continue until rebel demands are met.
Thileepan began his fast Sept. 15 to support demands that all Tamil political prisoners be released, that resettlement of the majority Sinhalese in Tamil-dominated areas be stopped, that a Sinhalese civilian militia be disarmed and that police stations remain closed in the mostly Tamil north and east.
India expressed "deep sorrow and regret" over the death and said it hopes that "a satisfactory solution will emerge in the next few days."
India has acted as a mediator between the mostly Hindu Tamil separatists fighting to create the independent nation of Tamil Eelam, and the Buddhist Sinhalese, who make up 74% of the nation's 16 million people.
Militant Tamils, charging discrimination against Tamils by the Sinhalese, waged a four-year war for independence. A July 29 peace accord brokered by India brought a cease-fire after the conflict had claimed 6,000 lives.
About 9,000 Indian troops are in Sri Lanka to enforce the peace.