An Indian fisherman was allegedly shot dead by Sri Lankan Navy on Monday, sparking political anger and a huge local protest in Tamil Nadu. The deceased fisherman, 21-year old K Britso from Thangachimadam in Rameswaram, was aboard a mechanism boat along with five of his mates when a Sri Lankan Navy vessel attacked it around 10 PM, according to The Hindu.

The English daily reported that the fishermen were just off the Katchatheevu islet when they were attacked by the Sri Lankan Navy. While Britso was shot at in the neck and later succumbed to the injury, another fisherman, 37-year old Saran, sustained a bullet wound in his leg and is now recuperating in a local hospital. The Hindu reports that it was only after midnight that the Indian fishing boat managed to reach the fishing jetty, from where the injured were rushed to the hospital.

There are however conflicting accounts as to what sparked firing from the Sri Lankan Navy. English news channel NDTV quoted a local government official claiming that the Indian fishermen were opened fire at despite fishing in the Indian waters. “Britso was fishing off the Katchatheevu islet, well within Indian waters, when Lankan naval personnel arrived and opened fire,” NDTV quoted Fisheries Department official Kulanchinathan.

The Hindu, however, reported that the Indian fishermen were “poaching” in the Lankan waters when the attack happened.

According to news reports, more than a thousand people are protesting at Britso’s house demanding assurance from authorities that action would be taken against the Sri Lankan Navy.

(Source: MK Stalin/Twitter)

MK Stalin, the acting president of the state assembly’s opposition Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), urged the Central government to “warn” Sri Lanka over the issue. Stalin said that it was “high time” that the Narendra Modi government “reacted strongly” to the latest attack on Indian fishermen.

The fisheries boundary dispute at India-Sri Lanka border

Fishing in the Palk Bay, a small water body between India and Sri Lanka, has always remained a thorn in the relations of India and Sri Lanka, more so after the end of the Sri Lankan Civil War in 2009. The water body is a rich fishing ground. Fishing is one of the mainstay occupation of people in Jaffna province in the north of Sri Lanka. Rameswaram on the southern tip of India also has a large and politically powerful fishing community.

Both New Delhi and Colombo claim partial or complete territorial rights to the islet of  Kachchatheevu, the same place off which the Monday night shooting took place. Kachchatheevu was reportedly gifted by India to Sri Lanka in the 1970s, but the Tamil Nadu government has been of late involved in an effort to get the possession of the islet back. According to some accounts, India is of the view that fishermen from both Sri Lanka and India have fishing rights in the waters off Kachchatheevu. Sri Lanka has often accused Indian fishermen of “poaching” in the waters off the disputed islet.

The Tamil Nadu government reportedly claims that at least 85 Indian fishermen and 128 fishing boats are in Sri Lanka’s custody currently.In a let ter that Tamil Nadu chief minister K Palaniswami reportedly wrote to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently, he highlighted the surge in arrests of Indian fishermen by the Lankan Navy in recent weeks.

According to a news report, at least 32 Indian fishermen have been arrested by Sri Lanka in the last few days.

(Source: Twitter/Sabeshwaran)