India on Friday rejected as “blatantly false” the local media reports about the Indian Navy’s alleged assault on a group of Sri Lankan fishermen, saying no such incident has taken place. A group of 13 local fishermen claimed that they had ventured into the sea on May 7 onboard trawlers ‘Thushan 1’ and ‘Thushan II’ and were physically assaulted by the Indian Navy in the international waters around Diego Garcia on June 4. “They demanded drugs from us even after we told them that we were only fishermen,” two fishermen told the local Hiru TV on Thursday.
Responding to their claims, the Indian High Commission here denied that the fishermen had been assaulted by the Indian Navy. “Media reports on June 17 stating that a group of Sri Lankan fishermen was attacked physically by the Indian Navy are blatantly false. We deny any such incident having taken place,” the High Commission said.
“The Indian Navy is a highly disciplined and professional force which discharges its responsibilities in an impeccable manner,” it said in a statement. India is firmly committed to addressing all fishermen-related issues between India and Sri Lanka in a humanitarian manner through established bilateral mechanisms and understandings, it added.
After the media reports, Secretary to the Fisheries Ministry Indu Rathnayake told the local media here that a discussion will be held with India after the report is investigated. Indian fishermen have also alleged in the past that the Sri Lanka Navy attacked them.
In October last year, a leader of the fishermen claimed that groups of Indian fishermen were attacked by the Sri Lankan Navy personnel using bottles and stones while fishing near Dhanushkodi, resulting in injuries to some and damage to their gear. Fishermen from both countries are arrested frequently for inadvertently trespassing into each other’s waters. The fishermen issue has become a major irritant in the bilateral ties.
In January, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar visited Sri Lanka and met with Fisheries Minister Douglas Devananda. He raised the fishermen issue and reviewed bilateral cooperation in fisheries.
Later, a three-member committee was appointed by the Sri Lankan government which will make recommendations on measures to stop alleged poaching by Indian fishermen inside the country’s waters after four people were killed when an Indian trawler capsized after colliding with a Sri Lankan Navy vessel.