CHENNAI: Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, drawing his attention to the “new trend” adopted by the Sri Lankan navy to harass and intimidate fishermen from Tamil Nadu and sought his intervention in securing the release of 21 fishermen arrested in the latest incidents. “This is to bring to your notice a new trend that has emerged in the Sri Lankan Navy’s tactics of harassing and intimidating Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu fishing in their traditional fishing waters in the Palk Bay,” the CM said.
“Of late, the Sri Lankan Navy is targeting fishing boats stranded in mid-sea due to adverse weather conditions or mechanical failure as well as fishing boats that go to the rescue of such fellow fishermen in distress. These boats in distress and Indian fishermen on board are being apprehended and remanded to custody in Sri Lanka,” she pointed out.
Describing it as a totally inhumane approach and completely against the ethics of maritime search and rescue operations, the CM said that in the latest episode a mechanised fishing boat, belonging to Ramanathapuram with six fishermen, who set sail for fishing from the Rameswaram fishing base on September 8 and was drifting due to a mechanical snag, was apprehended by the Sri Lankan Navy on September 9. “Even in the last two instances on September 1-2, 15 Indian fishermen were apprehended from boats which were in distress in mid-sea. Two boats sank and the boat which went to their rescue was captured. The 15 fishermen and one boat continue to be in Sri Lankan custody,” she said.
Reiterating that the Lankan strategy of keeping the apprehended fishing boats of Indian fishermen in custody had snatched away the source of meagre livelihood of the poor fishermen and their families, Jayalalithaa said it was also fuelling despondency and great unrest amongst the fishermen. “The 63 boats of Tamil Nadu fishermen in Sri Lankan custody are deteriorating due to lack of maintenance on a daily basis. With the North East Monsoon due to arrive shortly, these precariously berthed impounded boats will suffer irreparable damage if not released immediately.”
Stating that the incidents once again highlighted the importance of retrieving the Katchatheevu islet from Sri Lanka and recognising the rights of Indian fishermen to fish in their traditional fishing grounds of the Palk Bay, she exhorted the Prime Minister to take steps for the immediate release of all the 21 fishermen and the 64 impounded boats.