Directly contradicting the government’s position, a Deputy Inspector General of the Coast Guard said Monday that it was the Coast Guard which blew up the Pakistani boat on the night of December 31, 2014. And that he was the one who ordered: “Blow the boat off…We don’t want to serve them biryani…”
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This is the first time that the Coast Guard — in remarks that were recorded — has admitted that it destroyed the suspect boat which, the government claimed, had blown itself up under suspicious circumstances.
Statements and remarks by the MoD, Defence Minister and the Coast Guard had said the boat’s crew had set it on fire or were responsible for the explosion that destroyed the boat 365 miles off Porbandar after an hour-long chase by a Coast Guard ship on New Year’s Eve.
The Indian Express had reported that intelligence and naval sources had said that evidence suggested “use of disproportionate force” by the Coast Guard. The sources also said the videotape of the burning boat did not appear to show that explosives were on board.
The government’s version is now belied by remarks made by DIG B K Loshali — he is also Chief of Staff (North West Region), Coast Guard, Gandhinagar — at a gathering of officials from the Coast Guard and Larsen & Toubro during the launch of Coast Guard interceptor boat ICGS C-421, designed and built by L&T, Surat.
Loshali was speaking in the presence of Coast Guard DIG Sudhir Sahni, in-charge of refit and production; and G Sethy, Deputy Commandant, who are based in Surat. The interceptor boat was formally launched by Loshali’s wife Ira Loshali on the L&T premises at Hazira.
“Let me tell you,” he said, “I hope you remember 31st December night… we blew off that Pakistan… We have blown them off… I was there at Gandhinagar and I told at night, blow the boat off. We don’t want to serve them biryani…”
Loshali began his speech saying, “Mujhe speech di gayi thi lekin main mann se baat karoonga (I was given a (written) speech, but I shall speak my mind).”
So far the Ministry of Defence and Coast Guard have been saying that the purported Pakistani fishing boat due for an “illicit transaction at sea” and identified later as Qalandar, had blown itself up.
In its release on January 2, the Ministry of Defence said: “The Coast Guard ship warned the fishing boat to stop for further investigation of the crew and cargo; however, the boat increased speed and tried to escape away from the Indian side of maritime boundary. The hot pursuit continued for nearly one hour and the Coast Guard ship managed to stop the fishing boat after firing warning shots. Four persons were seen on the boat who disregarded all warnings by the Coast Guard ship to stop and cooperate with investigation. Soon thereafter, the crew hid themselves in below deck compartment and set the boat on fire, which resulted in explosion and major fire on the boat.”
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On January 3, Kuldip Singh Sheoran, Commander, Indian Coast Guard (North West), Gandhinagar, told The Indian Express: “After we had covered them from the air and the sea, the suspects blew up the boat… suddenly a ball of fire rose into the air and the boat was aflame.”
VIDEO: Just over a month ago The Indian Express showed you chinks in coastal security
On January 5, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said: “A normal boat, even carrying some drugs, can throw away their drugs and surrender. No one is going to be killing himself unless you are motivated enough to do that… As per our information, the boat was under our surveillance for over 12 hours — probably for more than a day — stationed there in one position… (I am) not speculating that it had explosives, but it had some activity in mind that does not fit the description of a smuggling boat. Which smuggler would commit suicide?”