MADURAI: While the arrests of TN fishermen and damaging of their boats by the Lankan Navy keeps grabs media attention, what often escapes the eye is the torture they are subjected to, if their version is to be believed.
Take the case of Justine (41), a fisherman from Rameswaram. He was recently caught along with a few other colleagues by the Lankan Navy near Katchatheevu. He claims he was stripped and physically abused for several hours. “We were forced at gun point to perform sexual acts. When some of us pleaded with them to let us go, they caned our genitals,” he recalls.
“Venturing into sea has become a nightmare,” he says, adding, “Whenever the Lankan navy spot us, they first ram their vessels into our boats to damage them. If a fisherman loses balance and falls into the sea, they start firing at him to scare others.”
Often they force fishermen to swim for a long time, he adds. “After the fishermen gets tired, they are allowed to get on to the boat for a second round of torture,” claims Antony, another fisherman from Pamban.
“Some Lankan Navy officials even threaten with guns to perform homosexual acts. We have no other option but to comply,” claims a fisherman from Rameswaram.
After reaching land, they are dumped in cramped cells for hours together before being produced in a local court in Lanka. “While under detention, officials beat us mercilessly. We are also subjected to abuses like cleaning of toilets in the prison,” another 41-year-old fisherman from Rameswaram claims.
Describing this as a clear case of violation of human rights, U Arulanandam, president of Alliance for Release of Innocent Fishermen Trust (ARIFT), says instances of Tamil Nadu fishermen being attacked by the Lankan navy have increased in the recent past. “While observing International Day for Support of Victims of Torture on June 26, the United Nation Organisation should take a serious note of these issues,” he opines.