Kanyakumari: More than 5,000 fisher-folks, including hundreds of young children and women took out a massive rally for about 13-km unobstructed by the police before they laid siege to the Kulithurai railway station in Kanyakumari district, protesting the state and central governments’ lethargy in rescuing fishermen who went missing following the Ochki cyclone. Though fishermen leaders in Kanyakumari district had earlier hinted at a similar protest on the day of the Governor's visit if the sluggishness in rescuing the missing fishermen continued, the district administration seemed to have taken the warning for granted.
Reacting to the massive fishermen's rally that commenced in batches from various coastal hamlets and culminated at the Kulithurai railway station, which fully came under the control of the fishermen since they entered it at around 12 noon on Thursday, a revenue official said, it is unprecedented in recent history of Kanyakumari district after the 1989 anti-nuclear march, when the police had to open fire injuring seven fishermen including a parish priest to contain the mob.”
Catholic parish priests extend full support to protest march in Kanyakumari
Moreover, the official added that as the district administration and police have been fully engrossed in relief works, there was not enough number of officers to contain the people taking up such a long protest march. Almost all the top officials, including the district collector and district SP went along with the Tamil Nadu governor, Banwarilal Purohit, who inspected the affected areas in the district the same day.
The fishermen, mostly from the eight affected coastal hamlets of Neerodithurai, Erayumanthurai, Poothurai, Chinnathurai, Vallavilai, Marthandamthurai, Thoothur and Iraviputhathurai gathered at their respective villages since early morning by sounding the church bell.
All the Catholic parish priests managing the churches in the coastal areas of Kanyakumari district extended their full support and it is believed that the protest march was fully organised by the priests. “Had the priests not guided the people, the rally would have turned violent,” said one of the police officers.
Guarded by the parish priests, who joined hands with them, even members of political parties were prevented from mixing with the agitating people. However, the Killiyoor Congress MLA, S Rajesh Kumar joined the rally at Kulithurai, while other MLAs' from the district were at meeting with the secretaries at the district collector's office.
None came to hold talks with the fisher folks, who almost captured the Kulithurai railway station, forcing the suspension of train services between Nagercoil and Thiruvananthapuram since 12 noon. As the number of protestors was gradually increasing with more and more batches of fishermen from the coastal villages joining, Tirunelveli range deputy inspector general (DIG) of police Kapil Kumar Saratkar held talks with the fishermen leaders that did not help. Later, the Padmanabapuram, RDO, Rajagopal too held talks with the agitators.
The fishermen, however, kept demanding proper assurance from the officials concerned to take quick action in finding 1,113 fishermen and 87 boats remain missing. “If the government is not ready to help us we would not hesitate to cross the state border to take refuge in Kerala,” said the enraged fishermen, who also demanded a death compensation of Rs 20 lakh, on par with Kerala government's announcement.