April 22, 2009 9:49:02 am
As Sri Lankan troops advanced on the last redoubt of the Tamil Tigers and the exodus of people trapped in a coastal strip crossed 62,000,a boatload of starving Tamil refugees landed on the Tamil Nadu coast this morning. Refugees claimed that over 80 boats carrying civilians were headed for the Indian mainland but officials said intelligence inputs pointed to only four boats making the journey.
Nineteen refugees,including eight women and two children,reached Arcothurai near Point Calimere in Nagapattinam this morning after sailing for nearly 24 hours in a small fishing boat. Police officials said the refugees had no food or water. They were taken to the Mandapam camp in Rameshwaram where a large number of Lankan Tamil refugees are housed.
Now that the battlefield has shifted to north-east Lanka,people in former LTTE-controlled areas like Mullaithivu and Puthukkudiyiruppu are trying to flee the war by escaping to the Indian mainland, an official said. As a result,Nagapattinam has become the main landing point for refugees because reaching Rameshwaram involves a long detour.
On the claim that 80 boats were headed for India,Nagapattinam SP Ashwin M Kotnis said: It is not possible for such a large group to escape the Sri Lankan Navy cordon. Our intelligence tipped us about four boats with refugees. Two have reached,one on April 19 and the second today. We have stepped up surveillance through 51 coastal village committees and officers from the Special Branch. Plus there is the three-tier surveillance by the Coastal Police,Coast Guard and Navy.
Subscriber Only Stories
Meanwhile,the Lankan crisis is playing out in poll-bound Tamil Nadu where every political party has taken up the issue. After ruffling Congress feathers with his pro-LTTE statements,Chief Minister and DMK president M Karunanidhi sent a telegram to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi,urging them to ask the Lankan government to order an immediate ceasefire.
MDMK general secretary Vaiko,one of the most vocal supporters of the LTTE and its chief Vellupillai Prabhakaran,today warned that failure to control civilian deaths in Sri Lanka would be detrimental to Indias integrity. A candidate from Virudhunagar,Vaiko has made the Lankan issue one of his main campaign planks despite joining hands with AIADMK which is dead opposed to the LTTE.
In New Delhi,the Congress too said the Government must appeal to Sri Lanka for a ceasefire. My party calls upon the Indian government to appeal to Sri Lanka for cessation of hostilities, said spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan.
📣 Join our Telegram channel (The Indian Express) for the latest news and updates
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.