RAMANATHAPURAM/ COLOMBO: A State-owned bus was torched, railway tracks were damaged and windshields of vehicles broken as sporadic violence broke out in and around Ramanathapuram following a Sri Lankan court awarding death sentence to five Tamil Nadu fishermen on charges of drug smuggling.
Police said more than 3,000 fishermen and women blocked road traffic at Thangachimadam and indulged in violence by felling the trees and pelting stones at vehicles. Armed police were pressed into service in all troubled spots.
A State-owned transport bus plying between Rameswaram and Pamban was torched and a Kanyakumari-bound tourist bus damaged by the protesters. The mobs also damaged railway tracks and other railway properties at Thangachimadam, police said. Four trains to Chennai, Kanyakumari and Madurai could not leave the station as scheduled on Thursday evening. Protestors finally relented after district Collector Nanda Kumar and SP Mayilvahanan held talks with them. Ramanathapuram MP Anwar Raja too convinced them saying he would take five fishermen representatives to Chennai for further talks.
The Colombo High Court on Thursday sentenced to death five Tamil Nadu fishermen and two Sri Lankans for smuggling drugs into North Sri Lanka in November 2011. Though death sentence is there in Sri Lanka’s law book, it has not been carried out since 1976. Most death row convicts end up spending a life time in jail.
P Emerson, P Augustus, R Wilson, K Prasath, and J Lanklet, all from Thangachimadam, were arrested by the Sri Lankan navy off Delft Island in Sri Lankan waters, on November 28, 2011 on charges smuggling in 995 grams of heroin.
They were transferred to Colombo within days, as the charge of drug smuggling is considered very serious.
However, the Indian fishermen maintained that they were framed. They held that they were not carrying any drugs, and were many nautical miles away from the place in which they were alleged to have been. Counsel for the Indian fishermen, Anil Silva told Express that GPS data gathered from the Indian and the Lankan boats showed that the Indian boat was nowhere near the alleged rendezvous point.
The Ministry of External affairs asserted that India was pursuing this “diplomatically both in New Delhi and in Colombo at senior levels” to free the fishermen. “The lawyers of the Indian fishermen will file an appeal to the next court of appeal within the prescribed 14 days,” said spokesman Syed Akbaruddin.