Colombo, March 11 (newsin.asia): Angry with the Sri Lankan Navy for allegedly shooting dead a young Indian fisherman last Monday, the 5,000 Indian fishermen who were to attend the annual St.Anthony’s Feast in Kachchativu island on Saturday and Sunday failed to turn up on Saturday.
Only Sri Lankan fishermen are currently participating in the festival which is being held at the renovated and expanded St.Anthony’s chapel. The renovation was executed for the Diocese of Jaffna by the Sri Lankan navy, free of charge.
An Indian official told newsin.asia that Indian officials will proceed to the island only if the Indian fishermen change their mind and come. “Our presence will be useful only if the Indian fishermen come,” an official said.
The fishermen of Tamil Nadu on the Indian side of Palk Strait which divides the two countries have been agitating for action against the Sri Lankan navy for allegedly killing 22 year old Britjo of Rameswaram on the India side of the maritime border near Kachchativu island.
They have refused to take charge of Britjo’s body till the concerned Sri Lankan naval rating is arrested. They are demanding that the Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj come and see them and assure action against Sri Lanka. They are also seeking the expulsion of Sri Lankan diplomats.
The agitation has spread to all coastal areas of Tamil Nadu and has elicited strong statements from political parties in Tamil Nadu. Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari took up the issue with Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena when he met the latter at the Indian Ocean summit in Indonesia.
After the meeting, the Indian and Sri Lankan governments decided to release all the fishermen in each others’ custody. Out of the 85 Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan custody, 53 were released on Friday. There are 19 Sri Lankan fishermen in Indian custody still.
But this has not assuaged the feelings of the agitating Indian fishermen. They consider it to be inadequate. They are also sore that Sri Lanka has not uttered a word about releasing the 134 Indian boats in its custody.
Sri Lanka has denied that its navy had shot Britjo. To prove this, Colombo has said that it will investigate on the basis of GPS evidence.India is yet to make its views known on the investigation.
(The featured picture at the top shows the renovated St.Anthony’s chapel at Kachchativu)