Attacked by Sri Lankan Navy with bottles, allege fishermen

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(Eds: Adds reactions of govt, DMK) Rameswaram (TN), Oct 27 (PTI) Groups of fishermen from here were attacked by the Sri lankan Navy personnel using bottles and stones early on Tuesday while fishing near Dhanushkodi, resulting in injuries to some and damage to their gear, a fishermen association leader alleged.

While fishermen who ventured into the sea on Monday morning onboard 400 boats returned by night after being chased away by Lankan naval personnel, groups that were on their way back home later came under attack, local fishermen association president P Sesuraja told reporters here.

Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar, reacting to the incident said, 'any attack on fishermen is condemnable and not acceptable.' The alleged incident would be taken up with the Centre to prevent Tamil Nadu fishermen fromfacing hassles and to ensure that they worked peacefully, he toldreporters in Chennai.

'Sri Lankan personnel should not indulge in attacks. No fisherman goes astray wantonly. There is no border on the seas. Factors like wind speed have an impact,' he said.

'We are confident that the Centre would take up the matter with Sri Lanka to prevent attacks.' The right course of action for Lankan officials would be only to handover fishermen to Indian authorities and not assault them, he said.

Jayakumar said steps were afoot to provide satellite phones on a subsidised cost to fishermen going for deep sea fishing and the scheme was being rolled out now.

The cost of each phone is about Rs one lakh and the subsidy component shall be Rs 25,000, he said.

Political parties, including the DMK and MDMK, condemned the 'attack' in Dhanushkodi area in Indian waters that came close on the heels of more than 4,000 fishermen being driven away by the Lankan navy on October 17 while fishing near Katchatheevu.

DMK leader T R Baalu condemned the alleged attack and targeted the Centre for being a 'mute spectator' and the AIADMK government for 'not pressuring' the central government to take action.

Baalu, wanted theunion government to take up the matter with Lanka to prevent attacks.

The DMK's parliamentary party leader hit out saying the Centre must not 'lend support for Lanka to usurp the traditional fishing rights of Tamil Nadu fishermen.' Sesuraja said these incidents came after a lull in the mid-sea attacks on Indian fishermen for over three months.

Fisheries department Assistant Director Rajendran and police officials said they were looking into the complaint of alleged attack on the fishermen.

The fishermen leader alleged the Lankan Navy pelted stones and flung glass bottles at fishermen injuring one 'seriously' while several others also suffered wounds.

Their fishing nets and accessories were also damaged by the personnel, he claimed.

MDMK general secretary Vaiko alleged a fisherman suffered head injury and many sustained 'bleeding injuries' and hundreds of fishing nets were cut by Lankan naval personnel.

India did not even lodge a strong protest with the island nation and it was anguishing, he said.

The root cause of the problem was 'ceding' Katchatheevu islet to Sri Lanka, Vaiko, a Rajya Sabha MP, said adding, 'I urge the Centre to take appropriate steps to retrieve it.' Katchatheevu was ceded by India to Sri Lanka in the 1970s and political parties and others have been demanding that it be taken back.

PMK founder leader S Ramadoss condemned the attack adding it was a 'transgression' by Lanka and wanted the Centre to lodge a strong protest with Lanka's envoy to India.

'The state and the central government should not tolerate the attack on Tamil Nadu fishermen by Sri Lankan forces,' he said. PTI CORR VGN VS ROH ROH