Prijin A never recovered from the trauma of that incident and never received any compensation because, officially, he was never on the boat. He finally took his own life on July 2, 2019, a little more than seven years since he saw his friends die.
From Kanjampuram, in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu, Prijin was an apprentice and cook on the St Anthony. On the day of the incident, he saw his close friend and neighbour Ajeesh Pinku die in a hail of automatic gunfire from the Italian vessel.
The Enrica Lexie incident attracted international attention, briefly sparked a diplomatic stand-off between India and Italy, and saw protracted litigation till the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague on July 2 this year removed the case from India’s jurisdiction but also ruled that the surviving fishermen’s families be compensated adequately by Italy.
Prijin was the sole breadwinner for his family. On July 6, his mother and seven sisters wrote to the Centre demanding that Prijin’s posthumous rights as a minor be protected as per international child rights law and the Indian Constitution, and that Rs 100 crore compensation be obtained from Italy.
After the high-seas shooting at around 4.30pm, Enrica Lexie allegedly tried to speed away and the St Anthony turned back for Neendakara. Mid-sea, Prijin was shifted to another fishing boat as its captain Fredy John Bosco, originally from Prijin’s native village in Kanyakumari, feared that he would be hauled up for child labour.
As the matter moved to the courts, Fredy often visited Prijin and his family, convincing them to keep Prijin’s presence on the boat a secret and assuring them that he was doing everything to get them justice and proper compensation.
The family’s plea — accessed by TOI — to the Centre, moved through advocate Yash Thomas Munnally, claims that for a long time, due to the trauma of the firing incident, Prijin was afraid to venture out to sea, or to even do minor fishing-related jobs. He became visibly disturbed, was unable to sleep and suffered from nightmares, the plea said.
The seemingly endless wait for compensation also pushed Prijin into a deep depression and his mental condition worsened, his relatives claim. He took his life on July 2, 2019. His mother and sisters have now alleged that a fair investigation was not carried out and that Prijin was denied hs rights as a minor as per international child rights law and the IndianConstitution.
Citing the $2.6-million compensation deal following a collision between the USS Greeneville and Ehime Maru in 2001, his relatives are seeking a total compensation of Rs 100 crore (around $13.35 million). Rs 70 crore is being demanded as damages for mental, physical and emotional suffering, and Rs 30 crore for wrongful violence, loss of livelihood and violation of child rights.