Coast Guard deny firing rubber bullets at fishermen

Since the boat kept moving, the coast guard personnel opened fire, the fishermen alleged in an interview to a private television channel.

The Indian Cost Guard on Tuesday denied firing on a fishing trawler after a fisherman lodged a complaint with the police in Ramanathapuram alleging that he and others came under fire from a patrol vessel in the high seas on Monday afternoon.

A Rameswaram fisherman reportedly suffered bruises on his left forehand when an Indian Coast Guard (ICG) vessel tried to prevent fishing boats from crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL), but fishermen allege that the ICG opened fire at them.

A statement from the coast guards said the boat was engaged in "pair trawling", which was not permitted in the waters of Tamil Nadu. During the chase, the fishing boat "also rammed" into the ICG ship and was stopped and boarded after 50 minutes, it said, adding, the boat crew was interrogated for "running away". Further, rubber bullets are not used by Indian Coast Guard Ships.

Coast Guard personnel aboard the ship instructed them to stop the trawler but fishermen replied that they could not stop while towing the trawl net. It was also cautioned for non-stopping for security checks, the statement said. "No fishermen has been fired upon by any CG ship in Palk Bay". They asked them if they spoke Hindi and fishermen replied that they didn't know the language, according to Pitchai.

The Coast Guard while denying any firing by its personnel said that the fishing crew in question was involved in "unauthorised" paired trawling. After a while, they applied ointment on their injuries and collected the signature of boat driver, Santo, before leaving the trawler, Pitchai stated in his statement to marine police. He sought action against the coast personnel aboard the ship for shooting and beating them.

The FIR has been registered under Sections 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 307 (attempt to murder) of IPC and Section 27 (1) of the Arms Act, 1959.

The fishermen who set out for fishing on Monday would return on Tuesday morning.

The fact that the fishermen, including the "injured" fisherman, continued fishing showed that there was nothing alarming, a department official said.

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