C. Jaishankar

RAMANATHAPURAM: It was the 146th bullet-ridden body of fisherman to be laid to rest.

A large number of gloomy fishermen attended the funeral of 20-year-old Santhiyahu of Thangachimadam in the district allegedly shot dead by the Sri Lankan Navy for foraying into its waters on Monday.

A quarter-century-old struggle of fishermen praying to put an end to the inhuman killing of innocent fishermen still continues, of course without a ray of hope.

According to the records available with the Alliance for the Release of Innocent Fishermen (ARIF), a reputed NGO, the first shooting incident against the Tamil Nadu fishermen took place on 13.08.1983 in which 5 fishermen were injured.

The first Tamil Nadu fisherman to be killed by the bullet of Sri Lanka was on 10.12.1983.

The first set of fishermen captured by the Sri Lankan Navy was reported on 13.06.1996.

The killing or capturing of fishermen is a continuous and unending ordeal since then.

U. Arulanandam, Tamil Nadu’s representative of ARIF, told The Hindu that more than 140 Tamil Nadu fishermen had been killed since 1983.

316 shooting incidents

A total of 303 were injured and 14 missing in 316 shooting incidents.

According to the official records available with the Assistant Director of Fisheries, Rameswaram, a total of 30 fishermen perished for bullets and 77 injured since 1992, the year of establishment of Rameswaram fisheries office.

The figure pertained to the Rameswaram island alone, most affected area because of Lankan firing.

Several fishermen of Pudukottai, Kanyakumari, Jegathapattinam and Nagapattinam were also killed in the waters between India and Sri Lanka.

The record shows that most of the incidents occurred off Kachchatheevu, which was ceded to Sri Lanka in 1974. The island is just 12 km away from Rameswaram.

Except between 2001 and 2005, which recorded a very few incidents, most of the years witnessed several incidents of shooting.

“No one should face the suffering I face now. I lost my most lovable, valuable and productive son to the bullet of the Lankan Navy. We don’t want sympathy or mere support. Expression of solidarity, customary visits and others will not solve the issue. We need permanent solution. My son’s death should be the last one in the series,” said Micheal, father of Santhiyahu.

“How long the State and Central Governments could be silent spectators to the killing of innocent fishermen. Will compensation to the victims solve the problem? It is a high time the Governments took concerted efforts to put an end to the ordeal,” said a cross section of fishermen.