Indian fisherman killed at sea, Colombo denies role

Chennai, A 21-year-old fisherman from Tamil Nadu was shot dead in Sri Lankan waters igniting tensions in the state but Colombo insisted its Navy was not involved.

Six fishermen from Thangachimadam in Ramanathapuram district were fishing near the Katchatheevu islet in the narrow sea dividing the two countries when they were fired at on Monday night, Indian officials said.

One fisherman, K. Britjo, was killed. Another who was injured was warded in a hospital in Tamil Nadu. The others escaped without injuries.

As India voiced “deep concern” after the incident, Colombo promised a thorough probe and later said that its naval personnel did not fire at the fishermen.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K. Palaniswami, however, urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to act to curb what he said was Colombo’s “aggression” against innocent Indian fishermen.

Katchatheevu is located in the Palk Straits which divides India and Sri Lanka. The sea near the island is rich in marine life, leading to frequent clashes between Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen as well as Navy.

In a letter to Modi, Palaniswami urged him “to intervene personally in this sensitive livelihood issue of our fishermen and use all means at the command of the government of India to curb the unacceptable aggressive actions of the Sri Lankan Navy and to protect the life, limb and liberty of our innocent fishermen”.

Palaniswami said the Sri Lankan High Commissioner to India should be summoned and told about the strong feelings of the Indian and Tamil Nadu governments about the unprovoked firing on Indian fishermen.

Hundreds of fishermen launched a protest at Rameshwaram in Tamil Nadu, blaming the Sri Lankan Navy for the killing. The dead man had set sail in a vessel with others from Rameshwaram on Monday.

Sri Lankan Navy spokesperson Lt Commander Chaminda Walakuluge said in Colombo that the Navy personnel had been ordered not to fire at Indian fishermen but to only arrest them if they entered Sri Lankan waters.

Indian High Commissioner Taranjit Singh Sandhu took up the matter with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the family of Britjo and Rs 1 lakh for the injured fisherman Saron.

The attack comes a day after Palaniswami wrote to Modi seeking the release of 85 fishermen and their 128 boats now in Sri Lankan custody.

The Sri Lankan Foreign Ministry said it was deeply concerned over the shooting.

“Initial investigations indicate that the Sri Lanka Navy is not involved in this alleged incident,” the Ministry said.

PMK leader Anbumani Ramadoss on Tuesday condemned the killing and said New Delhi should stop terming Sri Lanka as a friendly nation.

“They were first attacked by the Sri Lankan Navy with grenades and then were shot at,” he said in Chennai.