Several Sri Lankan fishermen released by the Indian government today said the Indian coastguards subjected them to harassment when they were arrested last year, for poaching into the Indian territorial waters.
The fishermen who had been imprisoned at Puzhal Central Prison, Chennai said although they were fairly treated in prison, the Indian coastguards had unduly harassed them after their arrest and while transporting them to the Sri Lankan Navy boats that were to take them home.
R. P Anurasiri from Trincomalee said they were forced to wash ships and toilets and that if they refused to do so they were beaten with batons.
“We were not mistreated inside the prison, but it was hard to eat the food we were given,” he said.
P. H Prasanna Prabath, another fisherman released recently, said he was beaten with an iron baton at the time of arrest. “They beat me on my head with an iron baton which caused wounds. They stopped beating me after I told them I would go to the Human Rights Commission because I was only in their seas and not stealing anything from them,” he said.
Prabath said they faced the same bitter experience on their return to Sri Lanka. “The coastguards kept tapping us on the head with iron rods, frightening us. They made us feel like slaves and work like them,” he said.
“Our fishing gear and boats have not yet been released by the Indian authorities, and we find it difficult to continue our livelihood. If the Indian authorities are not going to release them, they should at least pay us compensation for the loss we have had to face,” they said. (Amadoru Amarajeewa, Trincomalee)