An Indian fisherman has been killed and three of his colleagues jailed after the boat they were working on apparently strayed from Bahrain into Qatar’s waters on Sunday, a senior Indian Embassy in Doha official said.
The deceased, Karthikeyan Thangaraj, hailed from the Tamil Nadu region of India, and was a resident of Bahrain.
He was killed when his boat crashed into a Qatari Coast Guard patrol boat, according to P.S Sashi Kumar, the embassy’s deputy chief of mission.
Earlier this week, several Indian media reports, including the Times of India, stated that Thangaraj had been shot and killed by Qatar’s Coast Guard while out fishing.
But Kumar has dismissed those reports, telling Doha News that the fishermen’s death resulted from the two boats crashed in the dark:
“The information given to us by the Qatari government is that a fishing boat collided with a Qatar coastguard patrol boat. The collision happened at night-time. There was no shooting.”
Meanwhile, the three men who were also on the fishing boat with Thangaraj were arrested by the coastguard and have been in custody for the past three days. They were named by Gulf Times as Malaikannan Selvan, Raj Rockappa and Iyyappan Andavar.
They appeared in court on Monday and will be deported to Bahrain “shortly,” the embassy official said.
Appeal for release
Yesterday, Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa appealed to the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene in order to secure the three men’s release and return Thangaraj’s body.
In a letter to Modi, the Chief Minister is quoted by Indian newspaper Deccan Chronicle as saying:
“The family of the deceased fisherman is shattered and seek the early return of his body.
The arrested fishermen are the sole breadwinners of their families and if their immediate release is not secured, the fishermen and their families will be put to great financial and mental hardship.”
She said Thangaraj had been working in Bahrain on a contract basis for the past four months and announced that his family had been given five lakh (INR500,000 or QR29,860) in cash relief.
The Indian embassy here has said it is “making the necessary arrangements to return the body to India.”
This is not the first time that fishermen working in other Gulf countries have been detained for accidentally crossing into a different nation’s waters.
In October 2012, 10 Indian fishermen from Bahrain were arrested for the offense and given 14-day jail terms.
And in the same month, 29 Qatar-based fishermen, mostly from Tamil Nadu and Kerala in India, were held in custody on the Iranian island of Kish after allegedly straying into Iranian territorial waters.