The Sri Lankan Navy and the Tamil Nadu government are on a collision course after Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi on Sunday charged that the Navy had indiscriminately fired at an Indian boat killing an Indian fisherman in the process. But the Navy flatly denied this charge and insisted that the facts be first verified before making any unfounded allegations.
According to reports from Chennai, a thirty-five-year-old fisherman identified as Thangapandi from Jegadapattinam was fishing off the Dhanushkodi coast with two others on Saturday when the shooting took place.
As they neared the maritime border, Sri Lankan Naval personnel had allegedly fired at the boat, while asking them to go back. Thangapandi died on the spot and others fled from the scene taking his body with them, officials told PTI.
In a subsequent statement on Sunday Mr. Karunanidhi condemned the `indiscriminate firing` by the Sri Lankan Navy and added that he had taken steps through the Centre to draw the Sri Lankan Government`s attention to this matter.
However Navy spokesman D.K.P. Dassanayake vehemently denied the allegation and stressed that the alleged shooting had taken place well within Indian territorial waters, an area which was not patrolled by the Navy.
The alleged incident has taken place some eight nautical miles inside Indian waters. We have no access to that area so there is no way our Navy can be involved. The LTTE on the other hand has often strayed into Indian waters to carry out this kind of attacks before. The incident has to be properly investigated before allegations are made, the Navy spokesman said.
The latest incident comes just days after a controversy over a similar shooting incident where the Navy was fired upon, from boats operated by a group of Indian fisherman who had strayed into Sri Lankan waters, damaging at least one small Navy craft. If we wanted to fire on the Indian fisherman we could have done it the day shots were fired at us from their boats. But we did not do that. When we raised that incident with the Indian High Commission we were concerned that allegations like what has now surfaced will come up, Commander Dassanayake said.
Reports from India speak of an uneasy calm that prevails at Rameswaram, following the latest shooting incident. Many fishermen s associations had held meetings to discuss the killing of the fisherman while a search was on to trace the two missing boats with eight fishermen.
Fisheries officials however said there was no cause for worry, as the missing boats had been traced, the Hindu newspaper reported.
Indian fisherman have already been warned not to poach in Sri Lankan waters as the area has been heavily mined to avert possible LTTE sea movements in the area with reports that the Tigers might attempt to smuggle weapons and medical supplies from Tamil Nadu.