Fishermen face curbs despite LTTE fall
Friday, Jun 05: KOLLAM: Fishermen from the southern districts of the State say the defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Sri Lanka has not eased the security restrictions on them when fishing south of Colachel in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu. They allege continued harassment by maritime security agencies.
Crew members of mechanised fishing boats here say that they continue to fish in a tense atmosphere. The security agencies of India and Sri Lanka have not eased their operations. Fishing continues to be a high-risk affair, they say.
Highly placed sources in the Indian Coast Guard say that security deployment in the Kerala and Tamil Nadu waters has been enhanced after the defeat of the LTTE. It is also part of a ‘pre-monsoon’ exercise by the Coast Guard since infiltration escalates just before the rain intensifies. Apart from that, the entire waters around the country have been under tight security cover to prevent terrorists from using the sea route.
T. Peter, president of the Kerala Swathantra Matsya Thozhilali Federation (independent fish workers’ federation), told The Hindu that the Coast Guard continued to intercept and question fishermen from the State. The questions were often asked in Hindi and this made the fishermen flounder. They were many times ordered to change course and return.
Even after the defeat of the LTTE, there had been instances in which fishermen had to return on sighting Sri Lankan maritime security authorities off the Kanyakumari waters, he added.
But fishermen continue to be drawn into these rich fishing grounds. Commercially valuable and export-oriented marine wealth is aplenty there. In the process of harvesting this wealth, fishermen tend to cross the border. The consequences, if caught by the Sri Lankan authorities, are nightmarish.
A good crowd of fishermen from Kollam venture into these waters to fish for four or five days together. They are willing to cooperate with the security forces. But often, they say, security exercises are painful experiences and even with the LTTE out, there is no change.