India: Sri Lankan Navy attacking Tamil Nadu fishermen
[TamilNet, Thursday, 10 May 2007, 12:11 GMT]
The Indian government said Wednesday that it “is aware that a number of fishermen from Tamil Nadu are being attacked and killed by Sri Lankan Navy.” In a written response to a query in Parliament, India’s Defence Minister, Shri AK Antony, noted: there have been incidents of firing on Indian fishing boats in Palk Bay and Gulf of Mannar area and recently slight increase in such incidents has been noticed.” The Defence Minister did not comment on recent accusations by Tamil Nadu Police that Tamil Tigers had also fired on fishermen.
In a statement released by official Press Information Bureau, Mr. Antony said the Government of India has strongly taken up the issue of firing on Indian fishermen with the Government of Sri Lanka.
“The need to act with restraint and to treat India’s fishermen in a humane manner has been repeatedly emphasized to the Government of Sri Lanka,” he said.
During the period from 1991 to mid April 2007, 77 fishermen of Tamil Nadu have been killed in such incidents, the statement said.
Outlining India’s response to the killing, Mr. Antony said: “to protect the Indian fishermen, surveillance and patrolling are regularly done by the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard in the Indian waters of the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar. Air surveillance is also undertaken.”
“The surveillance mechanisms include coastal patrol, international maritime boundary patrol, air patrol, shallow water patrol and radar surveillance.”
The Government of Tamil Nadu “provides immediate relief to the family of deceased fishermen according to its norms,” the statement said.
“In addition, if the deceased belonged to the Fishermen Cooperative Society, his family is also provided financial relief under the Fishermen Accident Group Insurance Scheme operated by the Department of Fisheries through the National Federation of Fishermen Cooperative Ltd.”
The Defence Minister’s comments, issued in a press release Wednesday come after several days of controversy in Tamil Nadu that erupted when the Chief Minister, M Karunanidhi, citing the local police, blamed the Tamil Tigers for the recent killing of five local fishermen and the abductions of twelve more.
The LTTE has denied involvement in the incidents and accused local vested interests of a smear campaign to undermine popular support for the Sri Lankan Tamils’ struggle.