The Sri Lankan navy allegedly fired at a group of Indian fisherman late Monday night, killing one and injuring three others, while they were fishing between Dhanushkodi and Katchatheevu off the Tamil Nadu coast. The incident triggered massive protests in the coastal town. The deceased was identified as Bridgo, a 22-year-old from Thangachimadam in central Rameswaram. His body was brought to the Rameshwaram Government Hospital.
The Central Government raised the issue with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. “Government of India is deeply concerned over the killing of an Indian fisherman. Our High Commissioner has taken up the matter with the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka,” according to PTI sources. “The Sri Lankan Navy has promised a full and thorough investigation,” they said.
DMK acting president M K Stalin said the Centre cannot remain a mute spectator over the alleged harassment by the Sri Lankan navy against Tamil fishermen, and it was “high time” they “reacted strongly”. The shooting caused a stir in Tamil Nadu as members from the fishermen community came out in large numbers to protest against the alleged killing in Rameshwaram. Rameswaram Fishermen Association President S Emiret said they wouldn’t accept the body unless they get assurances from a central minister that such incidents wouldn’t repeat again. The fishermen have also demanded the arrest of the Lankan navy personnel involved in the incident, he added. Party workers belonging to the Thamizhaga Vazhvurimai Katchi climbed a cellphone tower in protest.
The Tamil Nadu government announced Rs 5 lakh compensation to the next of kin of the dead fisherman, and Rs 1 lakh for those who were injured in the alleged shooting. On Monday, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami wrote to the Centre claiming that it had failed to take concrete steps in acting against the purported harassment of Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Sri Lankan navy. Last week, 15 Indian fishermen were detained by the Sri Lankan navy and all their equipment and fishing gear was taken away. Indian fishermen straying into Sri Lankan waters in search of fresh catch lead to frequent arrests by the country’s navy in the past. Former Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa had repeatedly raised the issue at the Centre, requesting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene.
In 2015, ahead of PM Modi’s visit to the island nation, Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe stoked a controversy hinting that Indian fishermen would be shot at if they violated the maritime border. Speaking to Tamil Thanti TV, he said: “If someone tries to break into my house, I can shoot. If he gets killed…Law allows me to do that.”
With inputs from Agencies