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Fisherman killed in Sri Lankan waters, India protests

By The Assam Tribune

Chennai/New Delhi/Colombo, March 7 (IANS): A fisherman from Tamil Nadu was shot dead in Sri Lankan waters but the island nation's navy on Tuesday denied any involvement in the incident.

As India voiced "deep concern" after the Monday night incident, Colombo promised a thorough probe.

Six fishermen from Thangachimadam in Ramanathapuram district were fishing near the Katchatheevu islet in the narrow sea dividing the two countries when they were fired at, Indian officials said.

A Tamil Nadu official said fisherman K. Britso, 22, died when the Sri Lankan Navy allegedly opened fire without any warning. Another Indian fisherman was injured.

Katchatheevu is located in the narrow Palk Straits dividing India and Sri Lanka. The sea near the island is rich in marine life, leading to frequent clashes between Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen as well as Navy.

Hundreds of fishermen launched a protest at Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, blaming the Sri Lankan Navy for the killing.

After promising "a full and thorough probe" when India took up the matter at the highest level, the Sri Lankan Navy said it was not involved.

Navy spokesperson Lt Commander Chaminda Walakuluge said in Colombo that the Navy personnel had been ordered not to fire at Indian fishermen but to only arrest them if they entered Sri Lankan waters.

The Sri Lankan Navy has been accused of killing scores of fishermen from Tamil Nadu fishing in the island nation's territorial waters.

Indian High Commissioner Taranjit Singh Sandhu took up the matter with Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, informed sources said.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K. Palaniswami announced a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to the family of Britso and Rs 1 lakh for the injured fisherman.

The attack comes a day after Palaniswami wrote to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking the release of 85 fishermen and their 128 boats now in Sri Lankan custody.

PMK leader Anbumani Ramadoss on Tuesday condemned the killing and said New Delhi should stop terming Sri Lanka as a friendly nation.

"They were first attacked by the Sri Lankan Navy with grenades and then were shot at," Ramadoss said in Chennai.

He said attacks on the Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy have been happening for the past 30 years, leaving more than 800 fishermen dead.

Ramadoss said India and Sri Lanka had agreed that fishermen crossing the maritime boundary by mistake should not be attacked but handled in a humane manner.

"It seems Sri Lanka is not willing to abide by any agreement," he said.

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