Parliament Debates Sri Lankan Navy Killing Tamilnadu Fishermen
Truths and Cover Ups)
TAMIL TRIBUNE, October 2011 (ID. 2011-10-01); Updated December 1, 2011.
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2. External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna's Statement to the Indian parliament on August 4, 2011
3. External Affairs Minister's Statement at the Lower House of Parliament (Lok Sabha) on August 26, 2011
4. Final Remarks
Sri Lankan Navy has been attacking, shooting and killing Tamil Nadu fishermen
in the sea for many years.Scores have been killed and many more injured.
Successive Tamil Nadu State chief ministers have pleaded to Indian government to
stop these attacked. Indian Prime Ministers have routinely assured that there
would be no more attacks but they continue. India had done nothing effective to
stop them. Opposition politicians and even its allies in Tamilnadu wanted to
discuss the issue in the Indian parliament. India's External Affairs Minister Mr. S. M.
Krishna made two statements about the issue, one on August 4 and another about
three weeks later on August 26, 2011.
What is appalling is the half-truths that the External Affairs Minister
presented and how he downplayed the whole thing. Nowhere in the two carefully
worded statements were any criticism or condemnation of Sri Lanka for killing
Indian citizens. (Read the statements carefully. There is no criticism or
condemnation.) In fact the August 4, 2011 statement does not mention any deaths
or shootings at all; instead it talks of arrests, harassment and use of force.
Why not tell the parliament that Tamil Nadu fishermen were injured and killed in
these incidents of "harassment" and "use of force"? In the
following days there was some criticism about the External Affairs Minister not
mentioning the deaths.
So External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna mentioned the deaths in his August
26, 2011 statement. Instead of telling the parliament that there were scores
of deaths of Tamil Nadu fishermen over the years, he said that there were 5
deaths in 2008 and 6 in 2011, giving the impression that about a dozen fishermen
died instead of the total figure running into the hundreds. Another important
thing to note is that the External Affairs Minister did not say that they were
killed but said that they died (as if they died in some accident). The truth of
the matter is that Sri Lankan Navy attacked and killed these unarmed Indian
citizens. There are hundreds of eyewitness reports from surviving Tamil Nadu
fishermen that Sri Lankan Navy men attacked and killed their fellow fishermen.
The Indian External Affairs Minister conveniently, cunningly and cleverly hides
the fact that neighboring Sri Lankan Navy has killed hundreds of its citizens in
Why is the Indian Government not doing anything effective to stop the
killings of its citizens? I believe that the northern Hindi dominated Indian
government feels that Tamil Nadu fishermen are acceptable sacrifices in order to
keep a "friendly" relationship with its southern neighbor Sri
Lanka, lest it gets even closer to India's enemies in the north--China and
Pakistan. It may be acceptable to northern-Hindi dominated Indian government to
sacrifice its Tamil citizens for the protection of the north from its
northern enemies, but it is not acceptable to us.
After her pleas to the Indian Government to protect Tamil Nadu fishermen did
not bring any effective action, Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Ms. Jayalalithaa
Jeyaram, expressed her concern at the National Development Council Meeting. In
her address to the National Development Council on October 22, 2011, she said,
“Even attacks on fishermen belonging to Tamil Nadu in the Palk Bay by Sri
Lanka are not looked upon as acts of aggression against India. This issue is
merely looked upon as a minor problem concerning Tamil Nadu alone. The Centre
seems to think that the lives of fishermen belonging to Tamil Nadu are worthless
and do not call for any potent action.” (The Hindu newspaper online edition;
October 22, 2011)
We present in Section 2 and 3 excerpts from External Affairs Minister's
statement to the parliament and our commentary.
2. External Affairs Minister
S. M. Krishna's Statement to the Indian parliament on August 4, 2011
External Affairs Minister of India, Mr. S. M. Krishna, made a Suo Moto Statement at the Indian parliament on August 4, 2011, about the killings of Tamil Nadu fishermen by Sri Lankan
Navy. Here are some excerpts from
the statement, along with my comments.
"There have been reports of incidents of attacks on Indian fishermen, allegedly by the Sri Lankan Navy... The Sri Lankan side, while denying that their Navy was involved, has promised to seriously investigate these incidents."
If someone not familiar with the issue were to read it, in fact many Indians outside of Tamil Nadu are unfamiliar with the issue, they would not know that the attacks include hundreds of shootings resulting in
scores of deaths and many more injuries.
The Indian External Affairs Minister calls them "allegedly by Sri Lankan Navy" and goes on to add later that Sri Lanka denies these attacks. If it is not the Sri Lankan Navy, is it the Indian Navy? Both Sri Lanka and India used to say
that it might be the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), although surviving fishermen
had told Indian authorities repeatedly that it was the Srti Lankan Navy that
shot at them. After LTTE was wiped out in May 2009, there are only two navies operating in the areas where Tamil Nadu fishermen were attacked, shot and killed--The Sri Lankan Navy and the Indian
Navy. Which one is it? Is the External Affairs Minister pointing his finger at the Indian Navy? I suppose not. Then it can only be
the Sri Lankan Navy.
We also want to point out what the Indian External Affairs Ministry said
when the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency shot and killed a north Indian
fisherman. This is what The Hindu newspaper reported on February 17, 2006:
"India has lodged a protest with Pakistan following the death of a fisherman, Shantilal Mangal (21), who was "killed in firing" by the Pakistan Maritime Security Agency on Monday, the External Affairs Ministry spokesman said."
There is no "allegedly by Pakistan". Why use "allegedly by Sri
Lanka" when Tamil Nadu fishermen were killed?
Indian Government came to the conclusion that it was Pakistan based on eyewitness statements of the surviving north Indian fishermen and the fact that only
Pakistani and Indian military vessels operate in that area. Then why this doubt
about eyewitness statements of hundreds of Tamil Nadu fishermen over hundreds
of incidents of shootings over the years? Why this disparity? Why this
"In the Joint Press Release issued in May 2011, India and Sri Lanka agreed that the use of force could not be justified under any circumstances and that all fishermen should be treated in a humane manner."
The Indian External Affairs Minister seems to tell the parliament that India
and Sri Lanka have resolved the issue and there would be no more
"force" on Tamilnadu fishermen. What Minister Krishna hid from
parliament is that Sri Lanka had used force after this May Joint Press
Release, during the period between the press release in May 2011 and Krishna's
statement in parliament on August 4, 2011. Here is a news item.
Fishermen complained to Tamil Nadu police that Sri Lankan Navy personnel
who came in 7 boats, two of the boats fitted with machine guns and the
personnel armed with guns, whipped them with a rope, and took away their catch and GPS
equipment. Thirty fishermen were injured in this incident (The Hindu
newspaper website, July 28, 2011). Is this not "use of force"? Why did the
External Affairs Minister who told the members of parliament of the May Joint Press
Release, hid from them that Sri Lanka had already violated the agreement?
"We [Indian Government] have emphasized that there is no justification for the use of force against our fishermen even though almost all instances of arrest and harassment of our fishermen seem to have occurred in Sri Lankan
I agree that most (may be almost all) incidents took place in Sri Lankan waters.
I also agree with the Indian External Affairs Minister that there is no justification for Sri Lankan
attacks even in their waters. The point I want to make here is different. Read the statement again.
External Affairs Minister Krishna says,
"all instances of arrest and harassment".
Is the Indian External Affairs Minister calling the killing of Tamil Nadu fishermen just harassment?
On January 22, 2011, Sri Lankan navy men
put a rope around the neck of a Tamil Nadu fisherman, Jayakumar, pushed him into the
sea and pulled him by the rope as he was struggling to swim. He choked to death.
Two surviving fishermen who were fishing with Jayakumar reported it to Tamil
Nadu officials. (Thinathanthi newspaper; January 24, 2011). Is the External Affairs Minister calling this barbaric act as harassment? If
someone did this to a dog, we would call it animal cruelty but when the Sri
Lankans did it to a Tamil the Indian Government is calling it harassment? My
"In 2010, a total of 137 Indian fishermen were apprehended and released by Sri Lanka. Till third August 2011, a total of 164 Indian fishermen were apprehended by Sri Lanka and all were subsequently released. At the same time, in 2010 a total of 352, and in 2011, a total of 131 Sri Lankan fishermen, have been apprehended by our authorities. A total of 104 Sri Lankan fishermen are still in Indian custody whereas all Indian fishermen apprehended on charges of fishing related violations in Sri Lanka have been released."
The Indian External Affairs Minister is essentially saying that we (Indian Government) are doing things to Sri Lankan fishermen who come into Indian waters and they (Sri Lankan Government) are doing things to Indian (Tamil Nadu) fishermen who go into Sri Lankan waters. We are doing the same thing, so what is all this fuss about? In fact, Minister Krishna is going to the extent of essentially saying that India is worse than Sri Lanka because India has 104 Sri Lankan fishermen
in custody and Sri Lanka has none (all are released). What Minister Krishna conveniently and
cunningly fails to give is number of shootings in 2010 and 2011 at Sri Lankan fishermen by Indian Navy and
the number of shootings in 2010 and 2011 by Sri Lankan Navy at Tamilnadu fishermen? I will give the answer. Over a dozen shootings by Sri Lanka and none by India. How many Sri Lankan fishermen did Indian Navy kill? None. How many Tamil Nadu fishermen did the Sri Lankan Navy kill?
We know that six Tamil Nadu fishermen died in the sea in 2011 (as of August 4,
2011). We know from eyewitness accounts that Sri Lankan Navy killed two of them.
There were no witnesses to the other four deaths--their dead bodies were
recovered from sea days later, one of them with the head cut off.
Just giving the number Tamil Nadu fishermen jailed but without any mention
of the numbers killed is outrageous. In fact, nowhere in the August 4
statement is any mention that Sri Lankan Navy killed our fishermen.
After criticism of the External Affairs Minister's omission of any
information about the killings in the August 4 statement to parliament, he
gave some limited information about the deaths three weeks later on August 26,
2011. We discuss this in the next section.
3. External Affairs Minister's Statement at the
Lower House of Parliament (Lok Sabha) on August 26, 2011
External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna, made a statement again at the lower house of the Indian parliament (Lok Sabha) on August 26, 2011.
He gave parliament the number of "reported dead" Indian fishermen. [He was referring to Tamil Nadu fishermen dead in the sea between India and Sri Lanka.] The numbers he gave are: 2008 - 5 and 2011 - 6 (none in 2009 and 2010; 2011).
Although there were no deaths in 2009 and 2010,
there were several reports of Sri Lankan Navy attacking Tamil Nadu fishermen,
resulting in injuries. We list here a sampling of news items published in
the Tamil daily newspaper Thina Thanthi during the first four months of
2009: January 10, February 7, March 23, April 5. There are more such news
reports in 2009 and 2010. [Note that there were scores of killings before
"There were six cases of Indian fishermen who died during 2011. We learnt about the death of Shri Pandiyan on 12th January 2011 and that of Shri Jayakumar on 23rd January 2011. Four other fishermen from Tamil Nadu were reported missing on 5th April 2011, and their bodies were found subsequently. In all these cases, the High Commission of India in Colombo took up the matter on the same day of receipt of information about the death of Indian fishermen. It is very important to note here that, following the India-Sri Lanka Joint Statement on Fishing Arrangements of 26th October 2008, the incidents involving Indian fishermen declined significantly."
Krishna says, "We learnt about the death of Shri Pandiyan on 12th January
2011". He conveniently omits that he was shot and killed. According to
the Times of India news report on their web site dated January 14, 2011: A. Jambunathan, assistant director in the state fisheries department reported that Pandian was fishing with C. Baskaran, M Meyyappan and M Manikandan in a mechanized boat. They were intercepted by a Sri Lankan navy vessel. The Navy personnel ordered the fishermen to jump into the sea. Meyyappan and Manikandan jumped into the sea immediately. Pandian waited to remove his clothes and was fired upon by the navy personnel. He was hit on the chest and collapsed in the boat. (Obviously this is the eyewitness statement from the survivors to the fisheries department.)
Krishna says, "We learnt about the death of Shri Jayakumar on 23rd January
2011". The Tamil newspaper Thina Thanthi reported Jayakumar's death on January 24, 2011. Thinathanthi has the largest circulation of Tamil newspaper and is more than half a century old. Here is a summary of the news as reported in Thina Thanthi on January 24, 2011: Jayakumar was fishing with his younger brother Senthil and another fisherman Rajendran. About ten gun Sri Lankan navymen with guns came in a boat and ordered the three to jump into the sea. Senthi and Rajendran did so. Jayakumar pleaded to the navy men that his hands were injured
in an accident some years ago and he could not swim. The Sri Lankans put a rope around his neck and pushed him into the sea. Jayakumar struggled to swim. The Sri Lankans pulled him by the rope around his neck and he choked to death. This was the
eyewitness report of Senthil and Rajendran.
Indian External Affairs Minister Krishna hid this horrific murder from the members of parliament by simply stating, "We learnt about the death of
Shri Jayakumar on 23rd January 2011".
Krishna said, "Four other fishermen from Tamil Nadu were reported missing on 5th April 2011, and their bodies were found subsequently."
What he hid from the members of parliament (MPs) was that one of those bodies was
found with the head cut-ff. So it was not a natural death but murder. We do
not know by whom. Yet why did the Indian External Affairs Minister hide this
information from parliament? (These are the 6 deaths I mentioned in Section 1.4.
I do not want anyone to count them as additional six deaths. The total death
count in 2011 was six.)
4. Final Remarks
Senior Indian Government officials are downplaying the Sri Lankan Navy
attacks and deaths of Tamil Nadu fishermen for the past few years. I request
readers to read excerpts of statements by Indian Navy Commodore P. E. Van Halteren (July 2008),
Indian Navy Vice-Admiral K N Sushil (October 2010), National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon
(January 22, 2011) and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (January 22, 2011) in
[Summary: Point-by-point rebuttal to Indian External Affairs Minister’s statement to parliament on alleged killings of Tamil Nadu fishermen by Sri Lankan Navy.]
Government "Justifies" Sri Lankan Navy Killing Tamil Nadu Fishermen
(by Usha Ramanathan), TAMIL TRIBUNE, December 2008;
updated in March 2011 (11
Killings of Tamil Nadu Fishermen in the Sea
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