An Indian fisherman from the southern state of Tamil Nadu was allegedly shot and killed by the Sri Lankan navy when the crew was fishing near the island of Katchatheevu. Colombo has promised to initiate a thorough probe into the incident.
The 22-year-old has been identified as K Bridgo. He died late on Monday (6 March) as several other fishermen were reportedly injured after the navy reportedly opened fire at them. It is unclear whether the fishermen strayed into Sri Lankan waters, but it is reported there were high seas at the time of the incident.
The death sparked massive protests in the southern Indian coastal town of Rameswaram as the victim's family members refused to accept his body demanding that the Sri Lankan navy is held accountable. The navy has been accused of opening fire at the fishermen at about 9.30pm local time (4pm GMT on Monday) without any warning.
"Tamil Nadu fishermen who are out in the sea for their daily livelihood, are jailed, harassed by the Sri Lankan navy. Even their boats are taken away," said Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswamy. The state government has announced financial compensation for the family of the victim.
According to sources quoted by local Indian news outlets, the Indian government has raised the issue with authorities in Colombo. "The Government of India is deeply concerned at the killing of an Indian fisherman. Our High Commissioner to Sri Lanka has taken up the matter with the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan navy has promised a full and thorough investigation," an official at India's foreign ministry was quoted as saying.
Colombo denied the "unsubstantiated allegation" and added, "Since there is an allegation of a shooting incident, Sri Lanka Navy is carrying out a comprehensive investigation to find out the veracity of this alleged incident."
The politically-sensitive waters between the two countries has been heavily disputed with Tamil Nadu fishermen community insisting that they have tradition rights in the region. Despite several attempts to resolve the territorial row, it remains a political and logistical quagmire for both parties.