India, Sri Lankan Navy and Tamil Nadu Fishermen

India, Sri Lankan Navy and Tamil Nadu Fishermen

Is Tamil Blood Cheap in the Eyes of Indian Government?

Usha Ramanathan

TAMIL TRIBUNE, April 2007 (ID. 2007-04-03)
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(This is an update to Reference 1 that discussed the killings of Tamil Nadu fishermen by Sri Lankan Navy and Indian Government's refusal to take any effective action to stop it or even register a diplomatic protest with the Sri Lankan Government.)

Pakistan Maritime Security Agency shot and killed a fisherman from northern India, twenty-one year old Shantilal Mangal, off the coast of Gujarat on Monday February 13, 2006. Indian External Affairs Ministry called Pakistan's Deputy High Commissioner Mr. Munawwar Bhatty to the ministry and registered a protest on Thursday February 16, 2006. Readers may say, "That is what India should do. After all one of its citizens is killed by Pakistani forces." I agree. But my question is, "How come the same Indian Foreign Ministry had not acted the same way even after scores of Tamilnadu fishermen* had been shot and killed by Sri Lankan Navy?" (*see Reference 2 for death toll count.)

As far as I know, this is the first shooting-killing of a north-Indian fisherman by Pakistani security forces in a decade (I searched news archives and Internet). Indian government's reaction was swift. Shooting occurs on Monday and by Thursday protest was lodged. Yet, when Tamil Nadu fishermen were shot and killed by Sri Lankan Navy, Indian government does nothing comparable. What happens when a Tamil fisherman is killed is, typically the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister writes to the Indian Prime Minister pleading with him to get Sri Lanka stop the killing of Tamil Nadu fishermen. The Chief Minister would get an assurance from the Prime Minister that no such shootings would take place again. That assurance is not worth the paper it was written on. Shootings continue, killings continue, with no protest from Indian Government. At best, Indian government would express its concern to Sri Lanka. There is a huge different in diplomatic terms between Indian government expressing its concern and Indian Foreign Ministry calling the "offending" country's diplomat to its office and registering a protest. Even after scores killings of Tamil fishermen, the latter never happened with Sri Lanka while within four days after the very first killing of a northern fisherman Pakistani diplomat was called to the ministry and protest registered. Does it mean southern blood is cheaper than northern blood in Indian Government eyes?

NOTE: We know that Pakistan had arrested many north Indian fishermen and confiscated their boats; Sri Lanka had done the same to Tamilnadu fishermen. There is no news report of Pakistan killing an Indian fisherman in the past decade until February 2006. Sri Lanka had killed scores of fishermen. Yet it was Pakistan that got harsh diplomatic treatment, as it should, but never Sri Lanka.

SUMMARY: India's step motherly treatment of Tamil Nadu fishermen. Compare how India reacted swiftly and sternly to Pakistan shooting and killing a north Indian fisherman and how it reacted to Sri Lanka killing Tamil Nadu fishermen even after well over a hundred have been killed.

UPDATE (added on April 16, 2009): On July 19, 2008 Indian external affairs ministry summoned Sri Lankan High Commissioner to the foreign office and lodged a protest over "a recent action by the Sri Lankan Navy against Indian fishermen". The "action" referred in the protest is the shooting of two Tamil Nadu fishermen near Kodiakarai (Point Calimere) during the prior week. This first ever formal diplomatic protest came after shootings for over a quarter century scores of fishermen [Dinamani daily, July 16, 2008] and dozens of letters to the Indian Prime Ministers from Tamil Nadu State Chief Ministers, political leaders and fishermen's associations, and protest demonstrations and fast by many organizations including state-level ruling party Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). In contrast, India made a similar formal diplomatic protest within a week after Pakistani navy shot and killed a northern (Gujarati) fisherman. Just after one death in case of a northern fisherman. Over at least 77 deaths in case of Tamilnadu fishermen [Reference 2].

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1. Killings of Tamil Nadu Fishermen Continue with Impunity (by Usha Ramanathan), TAMIL TRIBUNE, September 2004 (23 KB)

2. How Many Indian Tamilnadu Fishermen did Sri Lankan Navy Kill? (by Usha Ramanathan), TAMIL TRIBUNE, June 2009 (6 KB) (tn)


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