Chennai: Black flag demonstrations and protests marked Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Tamil Nadu to inaugurate DefExpo 2018 at Thiruvidanthai near the city, on Thursday, with opposition parties and various other organizations taking to the streets to convey their displeasure with the centre over non-constitution of the Cauvery Management Board.

As Modi arrived in Chennai around 9.30am, protesters massed near the airport released black balloons. The road leading to the airport was gridlocked for more than three kilometres and hundreds courted arrest. Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman had to walk over a kilometre to enter the airport and receive the Prime Minister.

Though over 5,000 security personnel were deployed across Chennai, Modi avoided road travel due to the protests. He took a helicopter from the airport to Mahabalipuram, from where he reached the exhibition venue by road. After inaugurating the expo, he took the chopper once again and landed at the newly constructed helipad at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Madras.

As the Prime Minister’s convoy passed through the campus to reach the adjacent Cancer Institute in Adyar, students wearing black shirts displayed placards condemning the Union government’s higher education policies.

One of the placards read: “Scrap Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA), save higher education and stop privatizing IITs".

Modi inaugurated the diamond jubilee building at the Cancer Institute.

The outpouring of dissent found reflection on social media too, with #GoBackModi trending with over 400,000 tweets.

More than 4,000 people were detained in Chennai on Thursday for protesting against the Prime Minister’s visit, said a senior police official on condition of anonymity.

Opposition leader M.K. Stalin, told a rally in Seerkazhi, “As someone who only flies on planes, look down for the black flags that are waved as a display of our emotions. Immediately withdraw the petition from the Supreme Court, else the fire...will not cease."

Chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami on Thursday submitted a memorandum to Modi stating that the constitution of the “Cauvery Management Board has become an integral part of the Supreme Court’s judgment".

“The farmers of the delta areas in Tamil Nadu who are dependent on Cauvery water for irrigation are fervently hoping that the above implementation machinery would be constituted by the government of India to enable them to commence the agricultural operations in the next irrigation season which starts on 1 June," the memorandum said.