The Coast Guard has begun a comprehensive enquiry into the killing of a Tamil Nadu fisherman, allegedly by Sri Lankan Navy. It assumes significance in the backdrop of “denial” by Sri Lankan authorities that its Navy had fired at Indian fishermen.
Commandant D. S. Saini, Commanding Officer, Coast Guard Station, Mandapam told The Hindu on Friday that the enquiry would cover all details, including the place of crime, eyewitnesses, exact time of firing, pre and post incidents of firing and others.
“We have established a close liaison with the State police machinery to collect information about the death of Veerapandian. Follow-up action will be taken based on it.”
Mr. Saini said that besides a stone, a bullet had been found in the boat in which the fishermen ventured into the sea from Jagathapattinam in Pudukottai district. These would be examined. The fishermen who were with Veerapandian had stated that they were 25 to 30 nautical miles off the coast at the time of the incident.
Apparently, the firing site did not fall within Indian territorial waters. Preliminary information had revealed that they did not carry communication equipment, Global Positioning System or other navigational equipment. Besides the alleged firing, it was to be verified if there were rivalries among fishermen.
Mr. Saini said that the incident took place around 5 p.m. on Wednesday. Taking the bullet-ridden Veerapandian, the other fishermen reached the shore around 11.30 p.m. They must have sailed at high speed. The duration of the journey suggested that they were not in Indian waters. If they were in Indian waters along the shore, they would have reached the shore much earlier.
Citing the presence of Naval and Coast Guard vessels and the State government Coastal Security Group vessels along the IMBL, he said no one would dare kill Indian fishermen in Indian waters.
The Commandant said that an offshore patrol vessel (OPV), which had a helicopter on board, had arrived at Palk Bay to join with other patrolling vessels.
Intensive patrolling had been ordered. Besides the helicopter surveillance, a Dornier aircraft from Arakkonam in Chennai was also carrying out sorties over Palk Bay and Palk Strait.