Protests erupted in Tamil Nadu after a fisherman from the state was shot dead near Palk Strait, allegedly by the Sri Lankan Navy, on Monday night. The Indian High Commission in Colombo raised the matter with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday. The Indian government was told that the Sri Lankan Navy would probe the matter.
“The Government of India is deeply concerned at the killing of an Indian fisherman. Our High Commissioner to Sri Lanka has taken up the matter with the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka,” the Ministry of External Affairs said.
Britso (22) was shot dead while fishing off Katchatheevu island along with four others. Another fisherman, Saron (22), was injured in the firing.
“There were five fishermen on the boat. The incident happened while they were fishing in Palk Bay around 9.30 pm on Monday. According to their statements, a fleet of four Sri Lankan Navy vessels surrounded the fishing boat and opened unprovoked and indiscriminate fire on them,” said a senior officer from Tamil Nadu Police. Britso was shot in the neck and died on the way back to shore, he said.
Three bullets found on the boat are being sent for forensic analysis, he added.
Hundreds of fishermen from Thangachimadam near Rameswaram protested against the killing. Rameswaram Fishermen Association president S Emiret said they would go ahead with a massive agitation until there is action from the Centre to end attacks on Tamil fishermen, allegedly by the Lankan Navy.
The Lankan Navy denied that it fired at the Indian fishermen, contending that its mandate was only to seize boats and arrest Indian fishermen. However, it promised a thorough probe into the matter.
Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami condemned the attack and announced compensation of Rs 5 lakh for the victim’s family. He also demanded immediate intervention of PM Narendra Modi and action from the MEA through diplomatic channels to secure the release of 85 fishermen and 128 fishing boats currently in custody of the Sri Lankan government.
While various political parties have taken up the issue, police have tightened security at all Sri Lankan establishments in the state and deputy high commission in Chennai following intelligence inputs that there may be attacks against them on Tuesday night.
Ties between the two countries have been strained as there have been several alleged incidents of Sri Lankan Navy personnel firing at Indian fishermen fishing in Palk Strait and seizing their boats. Palk Strait is a rich fishing ground for fishermen.