Indian Government "Justifies" Sri Lankan Navy Killing Tamil Nadu Fishermen
TAMIL TRIBUNE, December 2008 (ID. 2008-12-02); Updated 2017-03-01Click here for MAIN INDEX to archived articles
Sri Lankan Navy has been attacking, shooting and killing Tamil Nadu fishermen for well over a decade. At least 77 have been killed [Reference 1] and many more injured. Attacks, shootings and killings continue in spite of repeated pleas from Tamil Nadu State chief ministers to the Indian government and promises from Indian prime ministers. Now senior Indian government officials "justify" and downplay the killings of Tamil Nadu fishermen. In this article we present quotes from statements by a Indian Navy Commodore, a Navy Vice-Admiral, National Security Advisor, External Affairs Minister (Foreign Minister) and Prime Minister.
1. Indian Navy Commodore P. E. Van Halteren
Indian Navy Commodore P. E. Van Halteren said in July 2008 that Sri Lankan Navy shootings/killings of Tamilnadu fishermen may be taking place when the fishermen sail too close to Sri Lankan maritime boundary.
Commodore Helteren added, "Our duty is to just check whether any boats or ships are involved in illegal activities. However, as an extra effort, we always warn our fishermen whenever they are very close to the boundary area."
Commodore Helteren further added, "Sri Lankan Navy never crosses into our territory."
2. Indian Government External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna
Two years after Indian Navy Commodore P. E. Van Halteren's statement, on August 11, 2010, India's External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna told the Upper House of the Indian Parliament (Rajya Sabha), "Government of India intends to give a protective cover to fishermen as long as they do not stray into Sri Lankan water." Unsaid, but implied, is that the Indian Navy and Coast Guard would not protect Tamil Nadu fishermen if they go into Sri Lankan waters. All that the Sri Lankan Navy has to say is that it attacked the fishermen in Sri Lankan waters. There are, and never would be, any third-party witnesses to the attacks in mid-sea (other than Sri Lankan Navy personnel and Tamil Nadu fishermen).
Also, the Indian External Affairs Minister seems to justify the violent attacks (including hundreds of killings) if they happened in Sri Lankan waters. If I go into my neighbor's property and pick a mango, does my neighbor have the right to beat me up or even kill me? Absolutely not. He may call the police and have me arrested. If he beats me, he would be the one police would arrest. If he kills me, he would be the one who would spend long years in prison. We would have no complaint if the Sri Lankan Navy arrests the fishermen and puts them on trial in Sri Lanka. When Sri Lankan fishermen stray into Indian waters, Indian Navy and Coast Guard arrest them. That is the right thing to do.
Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna's implicit justification of Sri Lankan attacks on our fishermen in Sri Lankan waters (even if it is true) is deplorable. As we stated in Section 1 of this article, when Pakistani Navy killed a North Indian fisherman in February 2006, Indian Government acted immediately and registered diplomatic protest to Pakistan. That killing was not justified on the grounds that the north Indian fisherman was killed in Pakistani waters. No one asked Pakistan if the attack took place in Indian waters or Pakistani waters.
You will also notice that there is no criticism of Sri Lankan Navy either in Commodore Van Halteren's remarks or in External Affairs Minister Krishna's statement. These statements are signaling Sri Lankan Government that they have no need to fear Indian retaliation, financially, diplomatically or militarily. All that the Sri Lankan Navy has to say is that the attack took place on their side of the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).
Since their own Indian government refuses to protect them and throws them at the mercy of Sri Lankan Navy, may God give a merciful heart to Sri Lankan naval officers. This is the prayer of this daughter of a fisherman.
3. Indian Navy Vice-Admiral K N Sushil
A little over three months after India's External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna's "justification" of Sri Lankan Navy attacking Tamilnadu fishermen, Indian Navy Vice-Admiral K N Sushil (Flag Officer Commanding in Chief, Southern Naval Command) also justified the attacks. We present here his statement to reporters in Coimbatore on October 21, 2010, and our response.
Vice-Admiral K N Sushil said, "When fishermen straying into Sri Lankan area are stopped by the Sri Lankan Navy, they start running out of fear of being caught, leading to suspicion. As there was reported movement of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelem (LTTE) cadre in the sea, the Sri Lankan Naval force has no other option, but to fire, as per the job given to them, for that matter any force."
4. National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon
Vaiko is the General-Secretary of a Tamil Nadu political Party Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK). He met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on January 22, 2011 and complained to him that the Indian Navy and Coast Guard are not protecting Tamil Nadu fishermen from Sri Lankan Navy attacks. Indian National Security Adviser (NSA) Shivshankar Menon, who was present at the meeting, told Vaiko that the Sri Lankan Navy may be firing at the fishermen because they crossed the international maritime boundary line (IMBL) into Sri Lankan waters. To which Vaiko responded, “Even if they cross the territorial waters, there was no reason for killing.” [In several of my earlier articles I had said the same thing that Sri Lanka has no right to shoot or otherwise attack our fishermen even if they cross into Sri Lankan waters. Many others have also said this before--even before my articles.] You see what is happening? India's National Security Adviser is justifying Sri Lankan Navy actions instead of saying that it has no right to attack our fishermen. When India's National Security Adviser justifies the attacks, why would Sri Lanka stop the attacks? Indian government's attitude is the underlying reason for the continued killings of our fishermen.
5. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
On this same January 22, 2011 meeting with Vaiko, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did not condemn the killings either. Instead he downplayed the killings. He told Vaiko that Pakistan had also arrested Gujarati (north Indian) fishermen. Vaiko pointed out that Pakistan did not shoot at them (Actually there was one instance of shooting in which a Gujarati fisherman was killed and Indian External Affairs Ministry immediately called Pakistan's Deputy High Commissioner to the ministry and registered a protest. No one said that the Gujarati fisherman might have crossed the IMBL into Pakistani waters. No one said that Sri Lanka has killed so many Tamil Nadu fishermen, so this one Pakistan killing is not a big deal. Pakistan understood that India was taking the matter seriously and would not tolerate further killings. In case of Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu fishermen, everyone from senior Navy commanders, National Security Adviser (NSA), external affairs minister and the prime minister are justifying or downplaying Sri Lankan Navy killings. So Sri Lanka takes it that India is not taking the killings seriously and continues with the attacks with impunity.
Finally the Prime Minister assured Vaiko that India would take up the issue with Sri Lanka SERIOUSLY to ensure that such attacks were not repeated. Sri Lankan Navy is attacking Tamil Nadu fishermen for over two decades and has killed at the least 77 fishermen [Reference 1]. Why was the issue not taken up SERIOUSLY so far? Is Tamil blood cheap?
6. India's Additional Solicitor GeneralIndia's Additional Solicitor General told a Tamil Nadu court in 2013 that there was no chance of the Sri Lankan Navy entering the Indian waters and attacking Tamil Nadu fishermen, without presenting any evidence to support his statement. This is discussed in detail in reference 2.
1. How Many Indian Tamilnadu Fishermen did Sri Lankan Navy Kill? (by Usha Ramanathan), TAMIL TRIBUNE, June 2009 (6 KB)
2. Indian Government Defends Sri Lankan Navy in Court (Attacks on Tamil Nadu Fishermen) (by Usha Ramanathan), TAMIL TRIBUNE, September 2012 (8 KB)
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