Chennai: The mortal remains of an Indian fisherman from Tamil Nadu, who went missing at sea on Monday, have been retrieved on Wednesday noon. The boat he was on-board had collided with a Sri Lankan vessel in the Palk Strait, the waters between India and Sri Lanka. Two other Indian fishermen who were on the same fishing boat(now sunken) are in Lankan custody since Monday. The two fishermen and the mortal remains of the third fisherman are expected to be repatriated by Wednesday night.
It is said that the three fishermen who belonged to Kottapattinam in Tamil Nadu’s Pudukottai district, were fishing in the areas adjoining the Delft Island in the Palk Strait. The two fishermen who were rescued and are in Sri Lankan custody are identified as Xavier and Sakunthran, and the deceased person is Rajkiran. As a mark of solidarity, the fishing community based out of Kottaipattinam had not ventured out to sea on Wednesday.
According to an earlier statement from the Sri Lankan Navy, they rescued two Indian fishermen from a sinking Indian fishing boat that was “poaching” in Sri Lankan Waters across the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL), on Monday. The Lankan Navy maintains that while they were chasing away Indian fishing boats, a boat that was attempting to evade had collided with a Navy craft, which eventually led to the sinking of the Indian boat.
“As the said task being put into practice, one of the Indian fishing trawlers, with aggressive maneuvers, in resistance of chase away, was on an attempt to evade from the scene making it collided with SLN Craft in operation. In the process, it ultimately descended having lost its stability as well as due to the rough sea condition” read the Lankan Navy statement on Monday’s incident.
However, Indian fishermen allege that the Sri Lankan Navy vessel had deliberately crashed into the Indian fishing boat, with the intention of sinking it. They are of the impression that the third person(Rajkiran), whom they say was steering the boat from within the wheelhouse was trapped within and sank along with the boat.
According to India’s National Traditional Fishermen Federation, this incident involving the Sri Lankan Navy is seen as deliberate retribution for another recent untoward incident, which involved an Indian boat. A few weeks back, a large Indian fishing trawler from Tamil Nadu had collided with and sunk a smaller Lankan fishing boat. While the Lankan boat was fully damaged and lost, the Lankan fishermen survived and returned to the shore. It is believed that, had the Indian Government or Tamil Nadu government taken some action against the errant Indian boat and offered compensation to the Lankan fishermen, things would have been amicably resolved.
The local fishermen also see an unfortunate similarity between Monday’s incident and one that took place in January this year. They allege that the Lankan Navy had rammed their vessels into the Indian boat, following which dead bodies of the four fishermen were returned, in January. The fishermen believe that holding talks between Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen would help resolve some of the misunderstandings that are based on the recent collision and alleged trespass. They are also aggrieved about the lack of concern for fishermen’s lives from the Tamil Nadu Government and the Indian government.
In recent times, Northern Sri Lankan fishermen have also been protesting against Indian boats that were venturing into their waters, carrying out the alleged illegal fishing activity. They made attempts to pressure the Indian and Sri Lankan authorities to act against those involved in illegal fishing.