On March 18, the Indian Coast Guard intercepted three Sri Lankan fishing boats near Lakshadweep islands and seized a huge cache of drugs and weapons. A week later several social media users claimed that the boats were trying to smuggle illegal goods into Kerala. The claim has been floating ahead of assembly elections in the state.

Twitter user @pratheesh_Hind posted an image of stacks of drugs and wrote, “Drugs worth 3000cr, machine guns and 1000 bullets were caught when tried to smuggle to Kerala from Lakshadweep. You heard all the numbers right. But it’s not news in Kerala as all mainstream media didn’t show it. They hid the news to stop people from knowing it. Secular Kerala.”

A similar claim was made by @meelogsin.

Several Facebook users made this claim as well. Alt News received multiple requests to verify this on WhatsApp.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Fact-check

The fact-check is split into two sections:

  1. Image verification
  2. Indian Coast Guard’s press release

Image verification

The image shared along with the viral claim was published in a 2020 Al Jazeera report. As per the story, the image shows several 1 kg packages of drugs busted by Marshall Islands police. The Marshall Islands are a chain of volcanic islands and coral atolls in the central Pacific Ocean, between Hawaii and the Philippines.

The total stockpile weighed 649 kg and its worth was estimated to be about $80m. As per Al Jazeera, this was the nation’s largest-ever haul of cocaine. The drugs washed up on Ailuk atoll after drifting on the high seas in an abandoned boat.

Indian Coast Guard’s press release

On March 18, the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) tweeted that three boats were intercepted off Minicoy islands carrying five AK-47 rifles with 1,000 live rounds and 300 kg of heroin. It further said that the boats are being escorted to the nearest port for further joint investigation.

ICG also issued a press note on the interception which has no mention of the destination of the boats. Public Relations Officer ICG Commandant Anoop Kumar told Alt News, “The destination of these boats cannot be shared until the investigation is completed.”

The press note identified the boats as Sri Lankan Fishing Boat Ravihansi. “All the three boats along with 19 crew escorted to Vizhinjam, Kerala for a further joint investigation,” it stated.

This was the second major anti-drug trafficking operation undertaken by ICG on the west coast of India within a fortnight. On March 5, 2021, Sri Lankan boat Akarsha Duwa with six crew was intercepted by ICG off Minicoy island. The Hindu reported that Akarsha Duwa and two other Sri Lankan boats apprehended on March 5 were also brought to Vizhinjam for further investigation. The Coast Guard Station at Vizhinjam is one of the three stations in Kochi.

Several social media users made a baseless claim that the Indian Coast Guard apprehended drugs and weapons on boats en route to Kerala ahead of the state assembly election. The claim was made after ICG apprehended narcotics from Sri Lankan fishing boats on March 18. ICG did not state that the boats were headed to Kerala but that the matter will be investigated in Vizhinjam where a Coast Guard Station located.

Donate to Alt News!
Independent journalism that speaks truth to power and is free of corporate and political control is possible only when people contribute towards the same. Please consider donating in support of this endeavour to fight misinformation and disinformation.

Donate Now

To make an instant donation, click on the "Donate Now" button above. For information regarding donation via Bank Transfer/Cheque/DD, click here.
Avatar
About the Author

Archit is a graduate in English Literature from The MS University of Baroda. He also holds a post-graduation diploma in journalism from the Asian College of Journalism. Since then he has worked at Essel Group's English news channel at WION as a trainee journalist, at S3IDF as a fundraising & communications officer and at The Hindu as a reporter. At Alt News, he works as a fact-checking journalist.