There have been reports in the media of the deaths of two fishermen at the hands of the Sri Lankan Navy, after they strayed into the waters of Sri Lanka in January 2011.  These actions of the Sri Lankan Navy must be condemned in no uncertain terms.  The Government of India, on the other hand, has asked for details of the events and has not come out strongly against these atrocities.

The former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Mrs. Jayalalithaa is quoted as saying "India is the largest country in Asia. While other countries dread the military might of India, a small country like Sri Lanka has dared to brutally murder our fishermen."  Further, she has used the incident to target the current Chief Minister Mr. M. Karunanidhi for being callous. While Mrs. Jayalalithaa may be complimented for her concern for the fishermen, her arrogant imperious attitude as a torchbearer of Indian imperial ambitions must be rejected.

Reports also say that some coastal communities are planning to ask for political asylum in Sri Lanka so that they can fish safely in the waters close to the Palk Straits, thereby satirizing the treatment that have received both at the hands of the Government of India, as well as at the hands of the Sri Lankan Navy.

These events are not new, and the brutality of the Sri Lankan Navy is quite well known to those living in the coastal area of Tamil Nadu.  What is new is that total lack of commitment of the Government of India to do anything about the state of affairs, especially due to its new found love for the current regime in Sri Lanka.  India views Sri Lanka as a long term strategic partners in its aim to emerge as the regional superpower, and also in its emerging `Look East’ policy. Control of maritime trade routes is an important cornerstone of its policy.  Furthermore, having invested a lot of its strategic reserves through logistical and material support to the Sri Lankan state during the last Eelam war, the Government of India would not like to do anything to rock this love affair.  The lives of poor fisherfolk is hardly worth a dime for the Government of India as it plays out its strategy on the regional chess board.

A state that cannot guarantee the life and methods to sustain livelihood is guilty of derogation of duty and should be made answerable to the citizens. All justice seeking Indian people must call upon the Government of India to condemn the murder of the fishermen, bring pressure to call for a thorough investigation, and to seek guarantees that no events of this sort are repeated.

B. Ananthanarayan

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