The ethnic war in Sri Lanka enters a new phase with the LTTE using aircrafts to bomb a Sri Lankan military base.
In recent times, there have been seizures off the Tamil Nadu coast that hint at the possibility of the LTTE using Tamil Nadu to outsource material that it needs in its war against the Government in Sri Lanka.
In January, the Tamil Nadu police arrested V Prabhakaran, a resident of Tuticorin and seized 3 tonnes of ball-bearing from his residence.
In February, the Indian Navy intercepted off the Rameswaram coast a boat carrying explosives, aluminium ingots and other material. 2 men who were arrested said that a Tuticorin-based agent had requested them to ferry the boat till Lankan waters.
The waters between India and Sri Lanka are guarded by the Indian Navy and the Coast Guard. The shores are patrolled by the Tamil Nadu police. Tuticorin has a 120 km-shoreline.
Speaking about the seizure, Tuticorin Superintendent of Police Y John Nicholson said, "We suspect that it may be meant for the LTTE." Though the police suspect that the aluminium ingots, explosives and other materials might have been loaded in Tuticorin, they do not know where it came from.
Nicholson said security along the coast has been beefed up. There are 5 check posts along the seashore and all are manned 24/7. All vehicles passing through these are checked thoroughly.
The police are monitoring the activities of people with a history of smuggling. From the recent haul, the police have found out that the boatmen employ local fishermen to move the material from Tuticorin to Rameshwaram.
On getting a tip-off, the Tuticorin police arrested 10 people involved in smuggling sea conch, sea cucumber and star fish on February 20. Three country boats, two cars and two bikes were seized from them. The police fear that the same smuggling route could be used to transport other material.
Nicholson said that they had a very good intelligence system in place within the fishing community.
Earlier, the fishermen were hostile towards the police, but in recent times, the differences have been ironed out thanks to proactive measures from the police, he said.
Law abiding fishermen passed on vital information to the police. There was regular night patrolling in sensitive areas.
The police have identified 15 spots along the 120 km Tuticorin shoreline where landing and loading is easy. A strict vigil is being maintained on these spots. There are three refugee camps for Sri Lankan Tamils in Tuticorin district. Though the inmates go out to work in the day time. They have to be back in the night. Any absenteeism is strictly dealt with.
In a new initiative, the Tamil Nadu government has announced 12 marine police stations along the coast line. Each of the four Southern coastal districts, Kanyakumari, Tirunelveli, Tuticorin and Rameshwaram will have a marine police station.
These police stations will have boats with which they can patrol the sea near the shore. The chief aim of these stations will be to curb smuggling. Policemen attached to these stations will receive special training. The 'Q' branch of the Tamil Nadu police also keeps a strict watch on smuggling activities.
SP John Nicholson was emphatic when he concluded, "We will not allow LTTE activity here."