Punish culprits

The shocking incident of the killing of two Indian fishermen by Italian navy personnel who were escorting the crew of a cargo vessel, Enrica Lexie, off the Kerala coast on Wednesday only shows that the marines were trigger-happy and unreasonable. There was no provocation from the fishermen who had stopped their boat near the ship just outside India’s territorial waters but within its exclusive economic zone. The argument that the marines were repelling a piracy attack can only be an invented excuse. There is no piracy threat in the area which is close to a major Indian naval base. Merchant ships are aware of regions where pirates are active and the Indian coast is far away from the waters where the Somali pirates operate. There has not been any international alert also about their activities in the area.

Even if the crew of the ship erroneously thought there was a threat they are guilty of not following the normal procedures to be adopted in such situations. According to the guidelines they had to communicate with local authorities but neither the Indian navy nor the coast guard which was present nearby was alerted. Though it is claimed that warning shots were fired it is clear that the response of the fishermen was not noticed. Actually all the fishermen in the boat except the two who were killed were reported to have been sleeping when the shooting took place. The fishermen were not armed, as claimed by the crew. The killing cannot be called an accident either. After the incident the ship’s captain did not initially allow Indian personnel to board it for investigation and did not co-operate with the authorities. All the circumstances point to wrong and ill-conceived action by the Italian personnel.

It is clear that those on the ship reacted without thinking and illegally and there is the need to pursue charges against them.   India has lodged a strong protest with Italy over the matter. The guilty personnel should be proceeded against according to international laws and punished for their action. The families of the fishermen who were killed should also be compensated and the company that owns the ship should be made to do so. It should be a lesson and should prompt others to act legally and responsibly in such situations.

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