Fishermen and their family members take to the streets in coastal villages

The unprovoked firing on innocent fishermen by US naval personnel at Jabel Ali harbour near Dubai on Monday that claimed the life of an Indian fisherman has fuelled anger and sorrow among the fishing community living along the Rameswaram coast.

While the fishermen in Rameswaram are used to hearing reports of firing by the Sri Lankan Navy, it was for the first time that they woke up to news that one of their fellowmen had been killed in firing from the US naval ship Rappahannock.

Three others were badly wounded.

The victims hail from different coastal hamlets of Ramanathapuram district.

A. Sekar (27), who succumbed to the hail of bullets directed at a motor boat minutes after the incident, was from Thoppuvalasai coastal village.

The injured were identified as R. Muthumuniaraj (27) of Karaiyur village in Rameswaram, K. Muthukannan (28) and N. Panduvanathan of Morpannai near Thondi.

Shocked and saddened by the incident, fishermen and their family members took to the streets in coastal villages. Perturbed fishermen and their grief-stricken kin rushed to government offices here to register their protest. A group of relatives went to the Collectorate here to appeal to the Central and State governments to bring back Sekar’s body and provide suitable treatment for those injured.

There was a gloom in Thoppuvalasai village as Sekar was his family’s lone bread winner.

His mother Nagavalli swooned on hearing the news and later complained of chest pain.

She was taken to hospital and is yet to recover from the shock.

Sekar had gone to Dubai 10 months ago, spending Rs 1 lakh borrowed at an exorbitant interest in the process. The debt was yet to be settled, his family said.

“He called her up a few days ago and said he wanted to come back to India as he was unhappy with the employer. She told him to return as soon as possible. Life has become hell for Nagavalli all of a sudden,” said Sekar’s brother-in-law, A Selvaraj.

“Opening fire on a small boat for a flimsy reason [that it was sailing at a high speed] and killing an innocent fisherman and causing severe wounds to others is highly condemnable and unacceptable. The orchestrators of the crime should be brought to book. Otherwise, these incidents will be repeated,” U. Arulandam, State representative, Alliance for the Release of Innocent Fishermen, told The Hindu.

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