Sri Lanka
Indian fishermen seek safety against Sri Lankans
Mar 5, 2007 - 10:15:03 AM

New Delhi, March 5 - A grouping of Indian fishermen has urged the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard to protect them from attacks by the Sri Lankan Navy which they say have left 400 people dead or wounded in the last two years.

The National Fish Workers Forum - has shot off letters to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Defence Minister A.K. Antony, demanding that the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard 'should be alerted to protect the Indian fishermen'.

NFF spokesman Thomas Kocherry told IANS on phone that most fishermen whom the Sri Lankan Navy attacks in the sea for their suspected links with the Tamil Tigers were from Tamil Nadu, particularly from the Ramanathapuram district.

Asked what the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard could do, Tamil Nadu-based Kocherry said they should randomly check the fishing vessels leaving the Indian coast so that the Sri Lankans feel reassured and stop their attacks.

'There is only a 30-km distance at one point between the Indian and Sri Lankan coasts. Where will our fishermen go? The Sri Lankans think everyone is linked to the LTTE -.

'They are catching people in Indian waters, not Sri Lankan waters. Our people have nothing to do with the LTTE. People are really frightened to go to sea. Naturally, there are major demonstrations in Ramanathapuram, Rameswaram and Nagapattinam.

'Indian Navy and Coast Guard are not protecting our fishermen. They can definitely say they are fishing in Indian waters, so that the Sri Lankan Navy does not encroach into Indian waters.'

Asked to comment about Sri Lankan charges that some Indian fishermen colluded with the LTTE to smuggle explosives, Kocherry said: 'Naturally they will say that as that legitimises their catching them and murdering them.'

He, however, admitted that there was support to the LTTE along certain parts of the Tamil Nadu coast.

'Many Tamils may be quietly supporting. That is but natural. The Sri Lankan allegations may be true or not true. But even if they are, we cannot legitimise killing of Indian fishermen. Can we?'

Kocherry, who has arrived here from Kanyakumari, put the number of Indian fishermen killed and wounded in the last two years in firing by the Sri Lankans at 'about 400. It is difficult to give a precise figure'.

A narrow strip of sea divides Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu, which the LTTE continues to use to source explosive material for its separatist campaign.

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