At least six fishermen jumped into the sea and escaped miraculously after the Sri Lankan Navy sunk their boat by dashing onto it and allegedly opening fire in the early hours of Thursday. The fishermen were fishing in the high seas then.

The Sri Lankan Navy, which had arrested 46 fishermen — 24 from Kottaipattinam in Pudukottai district with six boats and 22 from Rameswaram with 5 boats late on Wednesday — “behaved rudely,” according to fishermen who returned here.

The fishermen said there was a marked change in the Sri Lankan Navy’s style of operation while arresting Indian fishermen as they chased them in the high seas and damaged their trawlers by hitting against them.

S. Seerus, 27, and four other fishermen were fishing in the high seas around 1.30 a.m., when the Sri Lankan Navy opened fire before hitting their trawler with its vessel. The fishermen, who were hiding in the cabin, came out on hearing a bang to see the trawler sinking, he said.

“As we came out after the Navy moved away, the boat (IND TN 10 MM 038) was full of water, and it started sinking,” Seerus, the boat driver, told The Hindu, narrating the horrific experience.

They jumped into the sea and were rescued by fellow fishermen.

“As gusty wind blew, we escaped with great difficulty,” he added. “Before hitting the boat, the Sri Lankan Navy opened fire,” he said, adding that the firing was not aimed at scaring the fishermen, but targeting them.

In another incident, two fishermen, Nepoleon and Christhuraja, jumped into the sea fearing attack by the Sri Lankan Navy, when they entered into their boat carrying pipes. While Christhuraja was rescued by fellow fishermen and brought to the shore, Nepoleon was arrested along with other fishermen, Christhuraja said. The Sri Lankan Navy has seized the boat (IND TN 10 MM 065).

Condemning the “brutal behaviour,” U. Arulanandham, president of the Alliance for the Release of Innocent Fishermen (ARIF), said the Sri Lankan Navy was crossing the limit, and it was high time that the State and Central governments lodged a protest with the Sri Lankan government. “Opening fire at the fishermen and damaging their boats do not augur well for the Sri Lankan Navy,” he said.

Fishermen leader P. Sesu Raja said A. Edison, owner of the sunken boat, suffered a loss of Rs. 20 lakh and requested the government to compensate him. The boat owner has lodged a complaint with the Marine Police of the Coastal Security Group.

24 fishermen held

Special Correspondent adds from Pudukottai:

A total of 24 fishermen belonging to Kottaipattinam village were arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy in the mid-sea on Wednesday night.

Official sources said that the fishermen ventured into the sea in the morning on six mechanised boats. According to reports reaching here on Thursday, the fishermen were taken by the Sri Lankan Navy to the Kangesanthurai harbour.

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