C. Jaishankar

Global positioning systems, cell phones damaged

Fishermen complain they were terrorised and beaten up

RAMESWARAM: Even as the Sri Lankan Navy released 249 mechanised boats along with around 1,000 Tamil Nadu fishermen on board after detaining them for nearly a day, various fishermen associations of Rameswaram island have launched an indefinite strike protesting against the attitude of the island Navy.

As soon as the news spread about the detention of a large number of fishermen, hundreds of anxious relatives, friends and others assembled in front of the jetty at Rameswaram, the famous landing centre of fishermen.

Though only a few boats returned initially, fishermen’s relatives heaved a sigh of relief on information that most of the fishing boats were returning.

Official sources told The Hindu that the Sri Lankan Navy, which escorted 230 trawlers to Talaimannar and another 20 boats to Delft island (Neduntheevu), conducted a through search and detailed inquiry with all crew members. After ascertaining there was “nothing” in the boats, all except one boat were released. Many fishermen, who returned to the shore without a catch, complained to the fisheries authorities that they were “humiliated” and “harassed”.

Many global positioning systems (GPS), cell phones and other fishing equipments were either taken away or damaged in the process.

Defence sources added that the Sri Lankan Navy carried out the massive exercise based on intelligence inputs that a few fishing boats were carrying “explosive materials” to Sri Lanka.

One boat (TN-10-MFB-203) of Thangatchimadam was detained, as the crew members tried to conceal “something” in the boat. Bothagar (24), Royappan (36), Siluvai (24) and Innachi (22) were on board.

“All of a sudden a flotilla of small and bigger ships of Sri Lankan Navy surrounded all the fishing boats near Kachchatheevu. After terrorising us by opening fire in the air, they took away our boats to Talaimannar and kept there for many hours. Though I pleaded innocence, the naval personnel beat me and many others,” said Kirubai of Thangatchimadam.

Rumous of Rameswaram said they threatened the fishermen with dire consequences if they came for fishing again. “It seems that they (Sri Lankan Navy) have taken a ‘tough’ stand against Tamil Nadu fishermen,” he added.

Meanwhile, at an urgent meeting held at Rameswaram various fishermen associations have announced an indefinite strike from Wednesday.

T. Anthoniraj, president, Vercode Fishermen Association, told The Hindu that fishermen were subjected to untold humiliation. The action of Sri Lankan Navy on Wednesday showed that the fishermen would have to pay a heavy price if they went for fishing in their “traditional and rightful” areas. Besides launching an indefinite strike immediately, all fishermen would block road traffic at Pamban bridge on July 10 demanding that the State and Central governments find a solution.