Bringing to the notice of Prime Minister Narendra Modi yet another incident of arrest of Tamil Nadu fishermen by Lankan Navy on June 29, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on Monday reiterated her view that the Centre should not treat the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) with Sri Lanka as a settled question as the very ownership of Katchatheevu islet and the unconstitutionality of the 1974 and 1976 agreements by which the islet was ceded to Sri Lanka were the subject matter of litigation in the Supreme Court of India.
“My government looks to your immediate and emphatic response to this issue and to ensure that it is taken up at the highest levels of the Sri Lankan government, so that our fishermen are not repeatedly arrested and abducted in the high seas of the Palk Bay”, the Chief Minister said in her letter to the Prime Minister on June 29.
She also requested the Prime Minister to ensure an early and strong diplomatic action to secure the immediate release of all the 28 Indian fishermen along with their 41 fishing boats, including the 11 fishermen and 38 boats already in Sri Lankan custody. “I look forward to an early and decisive response”, she added.
Pointing out that the Tamil Nadu fishermen have been subjected to this woes while pursuing their traditional avocation in their historic and traditional fishing waters of the Palk Bay, Jayalalithaa said “it is imperative that the traditional livelihood of our fishermen should not be allowed to be disrupted by the hostile actions of the Lankan Navy.”
Thanking the Prime Minister for his prompt and positive response to her earlier letter dated June 19, Jayalalithaa said the effective intervention by the Centre had led to the release of 46 fishermen apprehended by the Sri Lankan Navy on June 18. She also recalled that in response to her letter dated June 24, seven fishermen in one mechanized boat detained by the Lankan Navy on June 19 had also been released.
However, she pointed out that 11 more fishermen who were apprehended on the June 23 were yet to be released by Lankan government. Further, the boats and gear of the fishermen released so far were yet to be returned to them, thus affecting their livelihood.
The Chief Minister said in the meantime, she was compelled to bring to the notice of the Prime Minister yet another needlessly aggressive act committed by the Lankan Navy in which 17 fishermen from Rameshwaram fishing base had been detained and taken to Thalaimannar on June 29.
The Chief Minister pointed out that these continued and repeated instances of apprehension and abduction of our fishermen by the Lankan Navy were adding to the very heightened sense of unrest and resentment among the Tamil Nadu fishermen who were struggling to eke out their livelihood from a very difficult and increasingly dangerous profession.