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Missing Indian fishermen - a hoax?

by Elmo Leonard

Reports of seven missing Indian fishermen since the sinking of two Indian trawlers, September 7, close to the coast of Talaimannar is considered another Indian hoax to continue poaching in the island's lucrative waters.

The Talaimannar Police said that the police search goes on with no signs of missing fishermen found on land or sea.

The Indians were in all probability picked up by its large fleet of trawlers, that night. Indian newspapers have reported that the injured fisherman Rameswaran Naganathan (46) had been admitted to Ramanathapuram government hospital in Rameswaram.

The Indians are back in numbers, Assistant Director of Fisheries in Mannar, Mohamed Ali Thayoob, said. This was in spite of five trawlers arrested by the navy, last week, navy spokesman, Commodore Jayantha Perera, said.

A group of Indian fishermen accompanied by Indian fisheries officials and NGOs visited Mannar this month and held talks with fishermen from Jaffna and Mannar, Thayoob said. The Indian invitation for our northern fishermen to visit India can be considered a ploy to pacify simple local fishermen to allow them to fish in our waters.

The fact is that India has long maintained bans on fishing within its Exclusive Economic Zones which have been overfished. On the eastern coast of India, fishing is banned on three days of the week and it is on these days that the Indians come in their thousands and trawl for prawn and other lucrative resources close to our shores.

The 300,000 fishermen from the Nagapattinam-Ramanathapuram coastline backed by the Tamil Nadu government have asked the Indian government to buy off their trawlers and provide them with alternative sources of employment or other sources of income, as reported in the Hindustani Times.

Some Indian fishermen have also asked the Indian government to train them and provide them with deep sea fishing craft. Meanwhile, the Indians keep up their propaganda that the Sri Lanka Navy shoot Indian fishermen and sink their boats.

The Hindustani Times quotes Uvani Fernando Arulanandam, President of the Alliance for Release of Innocent Fishermen (ARIF) based in Pamban in Rameswaram, that 116 Tamil Nadu fishermen were killed and 242 wounded in naval firing from August 1983 to date. Indian fishermen had also lost boats and nets worth millions of rupees, he has said.

Commodore Jayantha Perera said that it was not the business of the Sri Lanka Navy to shoot defenceless fishermen, from wherever they come. The navies of both nations maintain very friendly relations, he said. The Indians coming here in thousands is a very big problem and on instructions from the Indian side, the navy confiscates 150 to 200 passes issued to fishermen by Tamil Nadu Authorities per month as a deterrent, he said.

The Indian fishermen who were shot was probably the work of the LTTE to gain the appreciation of local Tamil fishermen, sources we spoke to on telephone in Mannar, said.

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