NEW DELHI: Sri Lanka has released 77 of 85 Indian fishermen arrested last week after an alleged firing incident that resulted in the death of an Indian fisherman. The released fishermen are presently in Jaffna and would soon be repatriated. Seized fishing boats, however, remain with Sri Lanka.
“Seventy-seven out of 85 Indian fishermen have been released by Sri Lanka government. They are put up in Jaffna and await repatriation. Release of remaining fishermen is expected soon,” Gopal Baglay from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said.
The MEA was in negotiation with Sri Lanka to get the fishermen released. India also has 19 Sri Lankan fishermen in its custody.
The Indian government had expressed ‘deep concerns’ at the shooting of Indian fisherman allegedly by the Sri Lankan Navy, an accusation denied by Sri Lanka that contended that the Sri Lankan Navy is not mandated to fire upon fishermen. The 22-year-old fisherman from Tamil Nadu was allegedly shot dead a little short from Katchatheevu Island that was ceded by India to the Island nation in 1974 in a bilateral pact.
Fishing is the economic mainstay of northern Sri Lanka and the fishermen have been demanding their Indian counterparts to stop bottom-trawling that they contend has been damaging the marine ecosystem.
Since 2014, the Sri Lankan Navy has seized more than 100 fishing trawlers; while they have released the Indian fishermen, they refuse to release the trawlers.