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Why can’t India protect its Tamil fishermen?
Fishermen of Tamil Nadu are regularly arrested and some times killed when fishing in Palk Strait. 272 fishermen are in Sri Lankan custody. Over 530 have been killed. Government of India has taken no effective steps to stop the atrocities. Why?

“Sri Lankan Navy arrests 18 Pamban fishermen” screams the headline of the English daily The Hindu on 31 December, 2013. The fishermen were fishing near the island of Katchatheevu which India needlessly handed over to Sri Lanka. The arrests came a day after Sri Lankan Navy had arrested another 22 fishermen from the coastal villages of Pudukottai district of Tamil Nadu.

With these arrests 272 Indian Fishermen along with their boats and trawlers are in Sri Lankan Custody. One has lost count of the number of such incidents that have taken place over the past years.

There have been several alleged incidents of Sri Lankan Navy personnel firing on Indian fishermen fishing in the Palk Strait, where India and Sri Lanka are only separated by 12 nautical miles. A Joint Working Group (JWG) was constituted to deal with the issues related to Indian fishermen straying in Sri Lankan territorial waters, work out modalities for prevention of use of force against them and the early release of confiscated boats and explore possibilities of working towards bilateral arrangements for licensed fishing. The JWG last met in Jan 2006.

India keeps officially protesting against Sri Lankan Navy for its alleged involvement in brutal attacks on Indian fishermen. As per Wikipedia web encyclopaedia, over 530 fishermen have been killed in the last 30 years. There were also several other protests across Tamil Nadu state in light of these incidents.

The apathetic attitude of the Indian government and the national media towards the alleged killing of Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy is difficult to understand. Several Tamil Nadu politicians like Vaiko and Jayalalitha have condemned the federal government for not doing enough to stop the killing of Indian Tamil fishermen, and for offering training, equipment, and strategic cooperation for the Sri Lankan Navy.

Step Motherly Treatment
The step motherly treatment of Tamils by the Government of India is there for all to see. When an Indian diplomat is arrested in the US, the Indian Government cries foul and starts curtailing the privileges of US diplomats. But when Tamil Nadu fishermen are arrested or killed without any proof that they have wilfully strayed into Sri Lankan waters, there are only feeble cosmetic protests.

No diplomatic actions taken. There is no move whatsoever to escort the fishermen by Indian Navy or Coast Guard to ensure that they do not stray into Sri Lankan waters and the Sri Lankan Navy does not stray into Indian waters. All Navy and Coast Guard ships have GPS and would know where the boundary is. Protecting India’s commercial interests in its economic zone, and protecting Indian citizen within this zone is the primary responsibility of the Indian Navy and Coast Guard.

It is also interesting to note that India allows Nepali Gorkhas full freedom to enter India and seek employment. It also has a benign attitude to illegal immigration from Bangladesh and never attempted to arrest and repatriate such immigrants in Assam and Bengal.

This is in spite of the fact that the demography of some districts of these states have changed over the years. But it has a different attitude to immigration of Sri Lankan Tamils. There is a look out for any Sri Lankan Tamil illegal immigrant and they are mercilessly hunted down and repatriated.

Foreign Policy of Appeasement

India is well known to be a soft state which believes in a policy of appeasement. It is true that China has been trying to cosy up to all our neighbours. But can we prevent that by a policy of appeasement towards Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh or Myanmar? China has a foreign exchange reserve of $2 trillion and more. Can we match their aid to other countries? We have been appeasing the US by providing their diplomatic staff with loads of special privileges. Did they respond?


A soft state is never taken seriously. A policy of appeasement has never worked. India may hand over its entire navy to Sri Lanka instead of a couple of ships or Rameswarm and Kanyakumari to Sri Lanka. That will not make Sri Lanka any friendlier to India.

Ashok Ghelot, the vanquished Chief Minister of Rajasthan, tried to appease sections of society with a slew of freebies to no avail. He was booted out by the electorate he tried to appease by an unprecedented margin. Economic sanctions and deployment of the Indian Navy and Coast Guard to protect Tamil fishermen is the only way to make Sri Lanka see reasons and respect the human rights and aspirations of Sri Lankan and Indian Tamils.

The attitude of the Indian Tamil politicians to the apathy of the Indian Government to Tamil fishermen and Sri Lankan Tamils is baffling. The arrests and killings of Tamil fishermen by Sri Lankan Navy was prevalent in 2009. But that did not prevent DMK from turning a blind eye to the plight of Tamil fishermen and from aligning with the Congress and forming a government at the centre. No Congress MP or minister has resigned from the government in protest against the apathy of the Government of India towards the Tamil Fishermen and Sri Lankan Tamils.

Let us see if things are going to be different in 2014. Perhaps the Congress has to be reminded that Tamils did not kill Rajeev Gandhi, Prabhakaran did. They accept that Sikhs did not kill Indira Gandhi but Beant Singh (the bodygurad of the Late Prime Minister) did and made Manmohan Singh PM and Bikram Singh Army Chief.

AAP has proved that there is a place from honesty and probity in public life and politics. Can the Congress Party follow the teachings of Gita and do their duty and the right things and leave the results of the coming elections to the will of God and the electorate.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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