India has formally lodged a protest with the Sri Lankan government over its navy opening fire on Indian fishermen near the Tamil Nadu coast. "We have received reports of the death of an Indian fisherman due to firing by Sri Lankan Navy personnel. Our High Commissioner in Colombo has immediately taken up this matter with the Sri Lankan government and expressed our deep concern and regret at this incident," said External Affairs Ministry Official Spokesperson Vishnu Prakash over the issue.
"We have emphasised that resort to firing in these situations has no justification and called on the Sri Lankan authorities to desist from use of force," he added.
Prakash further said the welfare and the safety of fishermen in the waters between India and Sri Lanka have received very high priority by the government.
"We have consistently emphasised to the Sri Lankan government to refrain from firing on our fishermen and scrupulously adhere to the October 2008 Understanding reached between the two governments. We call on the Sri Lankan navy to exercise maximum restraint and avoid use of force in such situations," he added.
Karunanidhi seeks PM's intervention
Earlier on Thurday, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi sent a telegram to the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, demanding his immediate intervention in stopping the killing of Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan navy.
"Atrocities of the Lankan navy are continuing unabated in spite of repeated assurances. This incident may be taken with the Lankan government for immediate action against those responsible for shooting and killing. Your personal intervention is requested for firm action to end such killings," said Karunanidhi in his telegram.
The incident found an echo in the Tamil Nadu assembly on Thursday as well. In the assembly, Karunanidhi's son and Tamil Nadu Deputy Chief Minister M K Stalin said, "We have been taking up the issue time and again with the Centre, which in turn had been taking it up with the Sri Lankan government." He was responding to points raised by opposition members, including All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Congress, who sought to raise the issue through a special mention during Zero Hour.
D Jayakumar of AIADMK slammed the DMK for the "continued killing" of state fishermen by the Sri Lankan navy in the past four years and asked "whether the state government will just stop with writing letters to Centre or would take any action."
Incidents of Tamil Nadu fishermen being attacked allegedly by Sri Lankan Naval personnel and fishermen over trans-border fishing has been an issue in the state for long.
In a fresh incident on Wednesday, a fisherman from Tamil Nadu was killed and another injured after the Lankan navy opened fire on them at sea near the Tamil Nadu coast. The fishermen belong to a village in Pudukottai, about 350 kilometres from Chennai. Stalin said the kin of the victim has been given a compensation of Rs 5 lakh.
The Centre has been maintaining that the firing incidents had come down since the October 2008 bilateral understanding between the two countries but cautioned Tamil Nadu fishermen not to cross India's maritime boundary, especially in those areas designated as "sensitive" by Sri Lanka. At the fishermen level too, attempts were made to sort out the issue when a delegation of Tamil Nadu fishermen recently visited Sri Lanka and held talks with their counterparts and officials to avoid the conflict in the seas.