20 men from Kasimedu were beaten up; released only when a ransom of Rs. 2 lakh was paid

An ordinary fishing trip to Ramathirtham in Andhra Pradesh turned out to be a nightmare for around 20 fisherfolk from Kasimedu. They were attacked by fisherfolk from villages in AP, were held captive and had to cough up a ransom of Rs. 2.25 lakh in order to get out with their boats.

“The incident took place early on Wednesday morning. After fishing until 1 a.m. we had retired for the night. Around 3 a.m. we were in the sea when suddenly, stones were hurled at us. Our men ran into the hold and remained there but I didn’t realise what was happening and suddenly around 20 strange men jumped into the boat. When I questioned them, they started beating me with anything they could lay their hands on. They beat me up so badly that I fainted. They then towed the boat to their village. Our men were also tied up and because I was hurt, they let me go but the men were told to stay till the ransom was paid,” recalled fishing boat owner K. Dhanaseelan, who is now in hospital with a dislocated shoulder and a broken leg.

Fishermen said that the fisherfolk of Andhra Pradesh had captured 10 boats in a similar fashion on Wednesday.

“Three weeks ago, another village in the same area captured eight boats. The reason they gave was a weak one. They said our boats had cut their nets, but we are sure this did not happen. They would not let our people go until a ransom was paid. In fact, they had kept a doctor at hand knowing that our men would be injured when they captured our boats. Several years ago, when we filed a complaint with the then district collector and the police, no action was taken against the erring fisherfolk,” said D. Senthilkumar, who took the ransom amount to Andhra Pradesh and came back after freeing Mr. Dhanaseelan.

K. Premkumar, another fisherman on one of the captured boats, said “the villagers had demanded Rs. 50,000 per boat but we said we were poor and could not afford so much. We fell at their feet and asked them to reduce the amount. Once on the shore we were also tied up. They took away our catch and nets and only when the ransom was paid did they give us back our nets,” he said.

M.D. Dayalan of the Indian Fishermen Association said that such incidents of boat capturing had been happening for over 10 years now. “Whenever the villages in Andhra Pradesh need money or have a festival, they capture our boats. Since the waters near the Tamil Nadu coast are polluted, we are forced to fish near Andhra Pradesh. The State government must take steps to write to the Andhra Pradesh government and take action against the errant fishermen,” he said.