All six fishermen on boat back safely, says owner

The Sri Lankan Navy had opened several rounds of fire at a fishing boat from Rameswaram on Saturday, according to fishermen who survived the reported attack.

“The Navy had fired 20 rounds when we were fishing on the high seas near Aathuvai in the Sethu Canal and at least six bullets hit our boat,” fishermen Kalanjiam and Clinton told reporters on returning to the shore on Sunday.

They said they had ventured into the sea from Rameswaram fishing jetty around 10.30 a.m. on Saturday and were fishing near the Sethu canal off Danushkodi in the afternoon, when the Sri Lankan navy, which came in a speed boat, opened fire. “The Navy did not issue any warning by opening fire in the air and straightaway fired at the boats,” he said.

S.Nixon (42), the boat driver, said fishermen in about 70 boats were fishing in the area around 1.30 p.m. when the Sri Lankan Navy opened fire asking them to return.

The fishermen could not return immediately as they had spread the net, but when the Navy fired at his boat, “we cut the net and returned to safety,” he said.

“They (Sri Lankan Navy) must have fired at least six rounds at our boat and all the six fishermen in the boat lied down in the boat for safety,” he told The Hindu over phone. They were hiding in the boat for about 45 minutes before snapping the net and returning back to safety, he said. Two hours later, after the Sri Lankan navy withdrew, they went back to the spot and retrieved the net, he added.

On their return to the shore, personnel from various security agencies such as the Intelligence Bureau, Q branch, Special branch and Marine police enquired with the fishermen and obtained statements. They also searched the boat but could not recover any bullet. The fishermen also told them that they could not find any bullet inside the boat when they cleared the broken glass pieces of windscreen damaged in the firing.

Meanwhile, M.Anthony, who owned the boat, presented a statement to the fisheries department, detailing the incident. He said all the six fishermen in the boat returned safely, he said.

Expressing shock over the incident, leaders of various fishermen associations urged the Central and State governments to take up the issue with the Sri Lankan government and protect the livelihood of the fishermen.

U.Arulanandham, president of the Alliance for the Release of Innocent Fishermen (ARIF), said it was unfortunate that the Sri Lankan navy had resorted to firing at a time when the Congress leaders were making tall statements that External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had raised the fishermen issue with the Sri Lankan government during his recent visit to Colombo and the Centre was taking steps to protect the livelihood of fishermen.

“The firing incident has raised serious doubts whether the Centre was genuinely interested in addressing the problems faced by the Tamil Nadu fishermen,” he said.

More In: Tamil Nadu | National