08/22/2012, 00.00
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Sri Lanka attacks and arrests 16 Indian fishermen of Tamil Nadu

by Nirmala Carvalho
Sri Lankan Navy attacks Indian vessels. A man was taken to hospital for injuries sustained in the attack. Colombo speaks of "routine checks" and "illegal entry into territorial waters." An activist: our institutions only concerned with doing business with Sri Lanka, instead of defending our rights.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - The Sri Lankan Navy has attacked 22 Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu, arresting and injuring 16 of them,  Armstrong, an activist for the rights of fishermen Sangumal Fisher Forum told AsiaNews. "The attacks - he explains - went on for days. This situation is sowing panic among the fishing communities of Tamil Nadu. The governments must do something." Fso far, the Sri Lankan authorities have not denied the incident, but have minimized the facts claiming they were part of routine checks to stop illegal crossings in its territorial waters, carried out on a regular basis  by Indian  navy vessels.

According to India, the attacked fishermen come from the community of Vedaranyam, Nagapattinam and Rameswaran. In addition to physical assaults against men, the Sri Lankan Navy also seriously damaged their nets and equipment. The 16 arrested, all from the village of Rameswaran, were held in custody for a night on the island of Neduntheevu, near Katchatheevu. One of them, Adimai, 46, suffered serious injuries and is now being treated at the government hospital in his village.

"The victims - said Armstrong - are all fishermen, whose survival totally depends on their work. Yet, they continue to suffer abuse of every kind on the part of the Sri Lankan Navy." According to the law, he says, "for every attack, the government of Tamil Nadu should write a letter to the central government, which in turn should take action.' But these measures are never put in place, and there continues to be attacks and murders. Our governments are only interested in doing business with Sri Lanka, abandoning its citizens to their fate. "

"We fishermen - he concludes - have lost all confidence in our institutions. The socioeconomic status of these communities is at a critical point. Our question is: are we not also citizens of India?".

For decades, there has been an ongoing controversy between New Delhi and Colombo for the continuous incursions of fishermen, that especially irritate the governments of the Indian coast and the islands of the Bay of Bengal. On the other hand, according to Sri Lanka Indian vessels, engaged in trawling, damage the ecosystem by destroying coral reefs, seaweed, shrimp, fish and all that remains trapped in the nets.


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