I learned from Sri Lanka
to go overboard, to flounder
in the deep ocean

while Navy sailors beat
me with sticks, and cut
my nets, and round me up

as the country’s diplomats
meet my Indian representatives
with elaborate denials

of mistreatment
on the high and most
domestic seas.

I want to feed
my wife and children,
return to Tamil Nadu

with my catch. I have
not been re-schooled
as a farmer

or an errand boy.
Will the United Nations
take up my case?

The International
Criminal Court?
My Chief Minister

protests and protests
but the Center is deaf
and keeps speaking

with the devil.
How can we calm
his temperature,

cool the beast,
teach the tyrant
that he cannot stifle

Tamils beyond
the nautical limits
of the Sri Lankan island?

  • wijayapala

    Indran, Tamilnet is claiming that the SLN is giving protection to these same Indian poachers who are ruining the livelihoods of Sri Lankan Tamil fishermen because of their industrial trawlers. So whose version should we believe?

    SL Navy backs Indian poachers clashing with fishermen in Jaffna
    http://www.tamilnet.com/art.html?catid=13&artid=34579

    Here is a more credible account from an Indian magazine that should fill in the gaps of your limited understanding:

    The bold men and the sea
    http://www.tehelka.com/story_main48.asp?filename=Ne260211THE_BOLD.asp

    “Excessive bottom trawling has swept the Indian sea bed clean. Fishermen find their nets coming up emptier. Today, the Indian side of the Palk Strait is one of the most over-fished coasts in the country. On a daily basis, fishermen across the Palk Bay are forced to choose between a dry coastline and the dangerously rich sea beyond it.

    “For years, fishing boats from both countries have habitually crossed into each others’ territory. S Thavaratnam, president of the Federation of Fishermen’s Cooperatives of Jaffna, Sri Lanka, believes that the Palk Strait is a common heritage, but that Indian fishermen have taken this too far. “Sri Lankan boats can’t go out because all the time, there are Indian trawlers in our side.” Sri Lanka has banned bottom trawling to preserve its fish resources, but Tamil Nadu fishermen still trawl there.

    “New Delhi-based Sugiswara Senadheera, minister councillor to the Sri Lankan High Commissioner, says Jaffna’s fishermen have asked the navy to strictly enforce the maritime boundary. “After destroying their own coast, they are coming to ours,” says Thavaratnam. “Very soon, we’ll also be left with nothing.”

    • Harshula

      @wijayapala, The Tehelka article was excellent, it really captured the issues from all perspectives.

  • Out of the Almirah

    Hello there Indran Amirthanayagam,

    Sometime back I wrote a comment to your poem/article entitled Cheran. It appeared and then suddenly disappeared from the site. To this day, I am kind of flummoxed as to what happened to my comment. Maybe comments from my kind of people are not taken seriously and were deleted as a result.

    Please kind sir, I implore you to write poetry for marginalize people like us too.

  • “Almost every fortnight last year, a fisherman from Tamil Nadu was killed at sea. Shot randomly by the Sri Lankan Navy in the sliver of water between India and Sri Lanka. Unnoticed, the Palk Strait has become the scene of inhuman torture, humiliation and savage murder over the past 20 years. And in the past six months, the violence has been accelerating — 72 men have been killed. Nearly 400 have lost their lives till now, more than 2,000 are injured and almost 90 have gone missing. And this is not even war.”

    I quote the above from the Tehelka article to which you refer.

    • wijayapala

      Indran, is that the only paragraph in the entire article that you read???

  • yapa

    Another typical unfair Tamil claim.

    Indian fishermen are invading and violating Sri Lankan territory and the poet is lamenting with the fishermen. They can prevent themselves from lamenting with just a simple (in)action. They don’t need to appeal to UN or to pray for thunderbolts to Sri Lankans to the navy. Just respecting the (International)Law and limiting themselves to their legal territory, the problem would be automatically solved.

    Does the poet want violation of International Law to be accepted as a just cause? Are you asking for the rights for violating Laws?

    Another case similar to the Separate Homeland Claim.

    What marvelous imaginations these poets posses?

    Thanks!

    • wijayapala

      The funny part about all this is how the [edited out] cannot figure out whose side they’re on! Indran says that the SLN is shooting fishermen, and Tamilnet says that the SLN is protecting them from the Jaffna Tamils!

      By his answer, Indran appears to support the idea of Indian trawlers destroying the fisheries in northern Sri Lanka and ruining the livelihoods of thousands of Sri Lankan Tamils. Does he look down on them because of their caste?

  • When an Indian fisherman crosses into Sri Lankan waters to fish a measured response would be to give him a warning and to chase him off, or to confiscate his catch. Surely, Indians and Sri Lankans can develop a set of trip wires regarding responses that do not include capital punishment or torture. I would imagine friendly neighbors can work out their differences without requiring intervention by bullet. By the way, Wijayapala, the only caste I care about is the casting of nets. If I caught you in one I would let you go, to swim again on your own volition in what could be quite easily a calm and measured sea.

    • yapa

      Still the best thing would be to respect the law and keep away from others’ properties or what ever the thing belong to others.

      Only problem then is the poet has no topic to write poems. Therefore, I think it is right for them to violate others’ territory. Poetical justification! Ha! Ha!! Wonderfully poetic.

      Thanks!