Protests amid alleged torture of fishers

ARIF says pictures of bodies show signs of assault; protesters want post-mortem done in India

Scores of fishermen blocked the road in the coastal town of Kottaipattinam in Pudukottai district on Thursday in the wake of bodies of fishermen, suspected to be of those reported missing from Tamil Nadu, being found in Sri Lanka.

The Alliance for the Release of Innocent Fishermen (ARIF) alleged that the Sri Lankan Navy had beaten up the four fishermen to death.

“The pictures of the bodies of fishermen bear many injuries and deep cuts. Blood clots and stains could be seen. There would not be blood clots if they had drowned,” said U. Arulanandam, Tamil Nadu representative of ARIF.

The fishermen, who held the Sri Lankan Navy responsible for the deaths, squatted on the East Coast Road, led by Chinna Adaikalam, president of the Kottaipattinam Mechanised Boat Fishermen’s Association, for over one-and-half hours.

The fishermen demanded that the bodies be immediately handed over to India. They wanted the autopsy to be conducted in India and demanded government jobs for a family member of the deceased; ₹15 lakh as compensation for the families; and registration of a murder case against the Sri Lankan Navy. Compensation for the loss of the boat was also among their demands.

Four fishermen A. Mesiya, 30, V. Nagaraj, 52, N. Samson Darwin, 28, and S. Senthil Kumar, 32, all hailing from Ramanathapuram district, had set sail for on a mechanised boat from Kottaipattinam jetty on January 18 along with over 200 mechanised trawlers. The four had been staying at Kottaipattinam for nearly 10 years, said official sources. The fishermen, who were supposed to return on January 19, were reported missing.

Aranthangi Sub-Collector Anand Mohan held talks with the protesters and persuaded them to end the stir. A strong posse of police has been deployed at Kottaipattinam.

“We will chalk out our next course of action based on the reaction of officials to our demands,” said Mr. Adaikalam.

Meanwhile, Mr. Arulanandam told The Hindu that injuries on the bodies showed that the unarmed and innocent fishermen were tortured and brutally killed for trespassing. He said the Sri Lankan Navy had distorted facts saying the boat had sunk. “If the fishermen were found crossing the international maritime boundary, they should have been arrested,” he said. He said the post-mortem should be videographed and bodies handed over to India and the family of the bereaved. Upon arrival of the bodies, a post-mortem should be conducted here again.

Sri Lanka’s Tamil National Alliance — a prominent Tamil political grouping representing Tamils of the north and east — condemned the incident. “Do not resort to taking innocent lives,” TNA spokesman M.A. Sumanthiran said.

(With inputs from Meera Srinivasan in Colombo)

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