Lankan woman, kid in spot after taking Indian fest boat

Q branch on Monday arrested five pilgrims of a fishing boat that brought a Sri Lankan woman on return from Katchatheevu after the annual St Anthony church festival.

Indian pilgrims returned from the islet ceded to Sri Lanka by India in 1974 in mechanised and country boats after participating in the church festival. Along with her daughter Nira (5), a Sri Lankan woman by name Usha (31) had travelled to India in one of the Indian boats that returned from the islet.

Q branch arrested Usha along with her daughter after immigration officers confirmed her nationality upon her entry into India. Later, the crew of the boat in which she had travelled — Kannan, Pandi, Munesswaran, Ayudha Poojai and Kumaresan — were also apprehended and the boat seized. All of them were remanded in judicial custody.

Enquiries revealed that the woman had wanted to come to India as a refugee and hence had utilised the opportunity to cross borders. The crew had let her sail along with them only after a request made by Lankan navy.

Meanwhile, a communication from V. Mahalingam, Consul General, Consulate General of India at Jaffna, to Ramanathapuram SP said the boat owners were innocent since they followed the instructions of the Indian Consulate officials and the Lankan Navy.

He requested to release them and deal with Usha and her child in accordance with law. The Consul General also said that since Usha was stranded as the boat in which she had come to Katchatheevu had already left, she and her child were asked to board one of the Indian boats which was on its way to India.

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