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Killings after Katchatheevu

An investigation by the Times of India found 378 recorded attacks on Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Sri Lankan navy (SLN) between 1983 and 2005.

Interestingly, however, most cases were closed in a few months with the comment "action dropped" or "unidentified", the paper found.

There have been many more attacks since 2005, with the issue repeatedly appearing in bilateral relations between the two states and prompting a bilateral agreement, which proved non-consequential, in October 2008.

However, the paper quotes researchers as saying SLN attacks began well before 1983.

"Firing and high-handedness by the Sri Lankan navy started in 1975, a year after Katchatheevu was ceded to them," said researcher L Selva Prakash.

Katchatheevu, a tiny islet close to Rameswaram, was ceded to Sri Lanka in 1974. (See map and discussion of the deal here)

In March 2010, Chinese and Sri Lankan naval personnel were reported to be training on the islet. In Jan 2008, the SLN planted sea mines near it.

Most of the 1983-2005 reports filed by Tamil Nadu fishermen mention the place of the attacks’ occurrence as "Near Katchatheevu in Indian Waters" and the SLN as the accused.

Also interestingly, see this June 2009 editorial of The Hindu newspaper, which has for decades been vehemently opposed to the LTTE and supportive of Sri Lanka's military. 

Last week, the main opposition AIADMK in Tamil Nadu again said retrieving the islet was the only way to stop SLN attacks on local fishermen - the party's position for the past few years.

During Sri Lanka’s armed conflict, which began in 1983, the SLN’s attacks on Tamil Nadu fishermen were lost amid its more numerous attacks on Tamil fishermen in the Northeast, and its clashes with the Tamil Tigers’ naval wing.

That the attacks continue underlines the force of other drivers in Sri Lanka’s policies towards Tamil fishermen from both sides of the Palk Straits.

"Hundreds continue to be maimed or killed," said organiser of the NGO People's Watch CJ Rajan.

"The continuing attack on our fishermen shows the impotence of the Central and state governments.”


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