COLOMBO: For the first time in the history of the long simmering conflict over fishing rights in the sea between Sri Lanka and India, Tamil fishermen from the two countries clashed in mid-sea on Thursday, using firearms, sharp instruments, stones and petrol bombs.
According to reports from Jaffna, the clash occurred at about 10 am off Kattaikadu on Jaffna’s Vadmarachchi East coastline. When fishermen from Nagapattinam and Karikal in about 20 trawlers were fishing there, Jaffna fishermen confronted them and asked them to leave. When the Indians refused, the local fishermen threw stones at them. The lndians then allegedly attacked the locals with fire arms, sharp instruments and petrol bombs.
The locals then appealed to the Lankan navy to intervene. The navy arrested 43 Indian fishermen and seized five trawlers. In a similar operation off Trincomalee another 43 Indian fishermen and five boats were detained. Those arrested off Kattaikadu were to be produced before the Kankesanthurai Magistrate and those arrested in the East were to be produced before the Trincomalee magistrate.
Following the incident off Kattaikadu, leaders of Lankan fishermen met the Indian Consul General in Jaffna and explained to him how important it is for the Indian navy and Coast Guard to prevent Indian fishermen from crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) and poaching in Lankan waters. North Lankan Tamil fishermen, who had not fished for 30 years because of the war, have started fishing, but they are unable to eke out a living because of the continuous depredations of the trawlers coming from Tamil Nadu and Puduchery.
“We notice that since the change in the regime in Colombo, the Lankan navy has become very lax. While the Indian Coast Guard is arresting Lankan boats for crossing the IMBL, the Lankan navy is unable to arrest Indian fishermen crossing the IMBL,” said K.Rajachandran, President of the Ambal Fishermen’s Cooperative of Karainagar in Jaffna district.
North Lankan fishermen have warned that if India does not take any preventive steps, they would hold demonstrations in front of the Indian Consulate in Jaffna.