Coast Guard denies firing at Tamil fishermen in Palk Bay

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K P Arokiyadass who lodged the complaint and fellow fisherman S Johson showed bullets to television reporters in Ramanathapuram on Tuesday and alleged that ICG personnel on board a patrol vessel attacked them after they could not stop their trawler "Jehovah Jireh" because their fishing nets had already been cast. Citing its enquiries with the ICG, the Fisheries Department said there was no firing by the ICG.

The fishermen, identified as Arockiasamy and Johnson from Pamban, were hospitalised, police said, adding, their condition was stable.

The Mandapam Coastal Security group on Tuesday registered a First Information Report (FIR) against the Indian Coast Gaurd (ICG) for allegedly firing at Rameswaram fishermen.

"There was no use of force or any firing by the Indian Coast Guard", the statement said.

"No fisherman was sacked upon by any ICG ship in Palk Bay on Monday", it said in a press statement issued in Chennai on Tuesday. Tamil Nadu IT Minister M Manikandan, meanwhile, told PTI over phone that the matter would be taken up with the Centre to ensure that such incidents did not recur.

According to the fishermen, while they were fishing in Indian waters, the ICG personnel had asked them to stop, but they continued to move telling them they could not stop as they had laid the net.

He said the Coast Guard personnel had beaten them up again stating that they should learn Hindi.

A statement from the coast guards said the boat was engaged in "pair trawling", which was not permitted in the waters of Tamil Nadu. After a 50-minute chase, the trawler was stopped.

Pitchai said he was injured when the rubber bullets fired from the ship hit him on his hand.

It clarified that Coast Guard personnel "don't use rubber bullets".

"The attributability of injury or bruises, if any, on the fishermen of the fishing boat "Jehovah Jireh" by the Indian Coast Guard are wholly denied as the investigations were undertaken in a peaceful manner as per the Standard Operating Procedures", it said. "It may be an attempt by fishermen to divert the attention as they were checked and warned by Indian Coast Guard Ship for paired trawling and non-stopping when directed to do so", the statement added.

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