Magazine article New Internationalist

Stormy Seas: Fishing Boats Stuck in the Middle of International Conflict [between India and Sri Lanka]

Magazine article New Internationalist

Stormy Seas: Fishing Boats Stuck in the Middle of International Conflict [between India and Sri Lanka]

Article excerpt

FISHERS on either side of the Palk strait that separates Sri Lanka and India are counting the cost of continuing their way of life. They have become caught in the battle between security forces and guerrillas, frequently getting shot at, beaten, arrested and having their boats seized or sunk. The area has been fraught with tension as security forces from India and Sri Lanka battle the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) rebels who have been fighting for independence. Both Indian and Sri Lankan fishers say they are harassed. One fishers' representative from Rameswaram says rebels have snatched at least 40 Indian fishing boats in recent years. Seventy-four Indian fishers have been shot dead by security officers in the last 15 years and another 251 Indians have been injured in scuffles between security forces and LTTE.

One man tells of an encounter when fishing with three others: 'It was a very stormy night and our boat crossed to the Sri Lankan side. When we realized this, we started back. But suddenly we were confronted by a Sri Lankan naval boat. We put on the light, raised our hands and begged for mercy. But they were firing and shouting at us. …

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