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Surveillance, patrolling intensified on both sides to thwart intrusion of Sri Lankan nationals into India

Source : News9 LIVE

Surveillance, patrolling intensified on both sides to thwart intrusion of Sri Lankan nationals into India
Image Credit: Indian Coast Guard

In the wake of the worsening economic crisis and turmoil in Sri Lanka, patrolling along the territorial waters of India and Sri Lanka has been intensified by the naval forces of both countries to thwart the intrusion of Lankan nationals into India. 

Sources in the Tamil Nadu police department told News9 that a high alert has been sounded along the coastal districts of Tamil Nadu in the wake of intelligence inputs that there could be more Sri Lankan nationals reaching India via the Tamil Nadu coastal route in the coming days following the unprecedented events that are unfolding in the island nation. The Coastal Security Group of the Tamil Nadu police is coordinating with the Indian Navy and Coast Guard on the frequency and pattern of patrolling along the south-eastern sea belt known as the Coromandel Coast. 

Coromandel Coast – a broad coastal plain in eastern Tamil Nadu state extending over an area of about 8,800 square miles (22,800 square km), is surrounded by the Utkal Plains to the north, the Bay of Bengal to the east, the Cauvery delta to the south, and the Eastern Ghats to the west.

Officials of the State police, fisheries and intelligence agencies stationed in the Rameswaram coastal area in Tamil Nadu were instructed to be in constant touch with fishermen and other sources to look out for families stranded on islands between the two countries. 

“Since vigil has been enhanced, some illegal boat operators dropped fleeing families in islands close to the International Maritime Boundary Line and returned back. Coastal security agencies rescued such families and brought them to Dhanushkodi in recent weeks. If need be, we will request for increased aerial surveillance in the area,” the official said. 

Security personnel in the coastal districts were alerted to mount surveillance at vantage points and alert Village Vigilance Committees in all fishing hamlets to keep a watch at known landing points. 

Meanwhile, the state Fisheries Department has warned Tamil fishermen not to venture near IMBL (International Maritime Boundary Line) as Sri Lanka has increased patrolling on Palk Strait and the Gulf of Mannar, to keep a check on its citizens fleeing the country. The Sri Lankan Navy has also increased patrolling activities in the coastal areas. 

“As protests mount day by day against the Sri Lankan government, the Tamils, who are facing the brunt of the economic meltdown, are naturally trying to come to India as refugees. But the Sri Lankan Navy has stepped up to ensure the escapees are detained mid-sea, produced in a court of law, which imposes a fine on them; and then they are allowed to go home. Police deployment on roads leading to the coastline has been intensified. It is just not the Sri Lankan Tamils but Sinhalese, Muslims and others who are also willing to flee the country that has plunged into a deep economic crisis,” a Sri Lankan national told News9 on condition of anonymity.

The arrival of refugees in small batches started in early March this year with several families taking boats to reach the Rameswaram coast illegally They were rescued by the Indian Coast Guard and placed in the Mandapam refugee camp. So far, 75 Sri Lankan Tamils have landed in Tamil Nadu hoping for a better life. 

Amid violent protests and emergency powers given to the armed forces in Sri Lanka, the Tamil Nadu government said it is in touch with the Ministry of Home Affairs on the possibility of Sri Lankan nationals arriving here to seek refuge in India. 

An official from the state government, talking to News9 said, “We are closely monitoring the situation in Sri Lanka and are in constant touch with the Ministry of Home Affairs and intelligence agencies on the issue. There is a possibility that many of the 50 odd prisoners who escaped from the Hambantota Prison in Sri Lanka could enter India by illegal means via sea route. A former cadre of the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) is looking to sneak into India with the support of their sympathisers who are already raising funds to revive the movement. All precautionary actions have been taken; a strict vigil is in place.” 

It is to be noted that a few days ago, the Sri Lankan Navy apprehended 12 Indian fishermen and seized one boat for allegedly fishing near Neduntheevu (Delft Island) for crossing the maritime border. 

The fishermen from Rameswaram had gone fishing near Delft Island when the Sri Lankan Navy arrived in the course of patrolling and arrested them while also seizing one boat. Distressed over the tense situation at the maritime border, a fisherman said that the strict patrolling of the Sri Lankan Navy has made it difficult for them to carry out fishing activities. Talking to News9, State secretary of ‘Sea Workers Union’ in Rameswaram, CR Senthilvel, said, “Fishermen are struggling to carry on with fishing activities in the waters along the international maritime border as Sri Lankan Navy intensified patrolling along the border to rein in its nationals escaping to India.” 

“Heavy deployment of the Sri Lankan Navy personnel has made us fearful that they might catch us at the international maritime border. We want the Sri Lankan crisis to end so that we can peacefully carry on with our fishing activities,” Arivarasu, a fisherman from Rameswaram said.

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