Sri Lankan Navy arrests 21 fishermen from TN's Karaikal for 'crossing' maritime border
The second incident took place around midnight when a crew of nine was arrested. The boat they were fishing was owned by AM Chandira from Kottucherrimedu in Karaikal district.
NAGAPATTINAM: At least 21 Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu and Puducherry have been arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy near Kodiyakarai on Monday night for allegedly crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL). The arrested fishers hail from the districts of Nagapattinam, Mayiladuthurai, Villupuram, and Puducherry's Karaikal. An official from the Fisheries department said, "We are sending reports to the government about the arrested fishers. The State government would communicate with the Ministry of External Affairs over the issue."
The attack happened as two separate incidents. The first one, around 8 pm on Monday. A crew of 12 fishers was fishing about 15 nautical miles from Kodiyakarai (Point Calimere). Among them, 11 were from Akkaraipettai in Nagapattinam district and one from Chandirapdi in Mayiladuthurai district. The mechanised boat was registered under V Amirthalingam from Akkaraipettai. They had left Nagapattinam fishing harbour earlier that morning. As the crew was fishing, the Sri Lankan Navy came in their vessels and apprehended them for allegedly crossing the IMBL and fishing in Sri Lankan waters.
The second incident took place around midnight when a crew of nine was arrested. The boat they were fishing was owned by AM Chandira from Kottucherrimedu in Karaikal district. They had left from Karaikal fishing harbor. Among the nine crew members, three hailed from Kottucherrimedu in Karaikal district, five from villages in Mayiladuthurai such as Madathukuppam, Marumthampallam, Keezhamovarkarai and Melamovarkarai, and one from Kottakuppam in Villupuram district.
The Sri Lankan Navy came in their vessels and similarly apprehended them as they were fishing southeast of Kodiyakarai, sources said.
Two trawler boats were taken to Myliddy fishing harbour in Jaffna district in Sri Lanka. The Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Sri Lanka impounded the two boats on Tuesday for alleged trespassing. The arrested fishers were produced before a court in Point Pedro on Tuesday. The court reportedly remanded them to judicial custody till February 7. The arrested fishers also underwent a Covid-19 test.
A fisheries department official said, "We have alerted our fisherfolk about the new crisis that has surfaced near the IMBL. We have advised them not to venture into troubled waters."
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin has written to the Ministry of External Affairs saying that the latest incident has created panic and shock among the fishermen community. “Prolonged incarceration of our fishermen in the Sri Lankan jails is subjecting them and their families back home to untold misery, and many of the families are being pushed into abject poverty in the absence of their sole breadwinner," he said.
Stalin urged the personal intervention of the Minister of External Affairs in the issue and requested the Union government to find tangible mechanisms to resolve the long-standing issue between fishermen of India and Sri Lanka permanently.
He wrote, “I also request the present matter with the Sri Lankan authorities urgently to secure the immediate release of 21 fishermen and their fishing boats from Sri Lankan custody.”
Meanwhile, the Fisheries department in Nagapattinam has convened an emergency meeting on Tuesday. The trawler boat fishers had agreed to stop all fishing activities altogether for three days from Wednesday to Friday to avoid extension of the conflict in Palk Strait. The officials have also called the trawler boats to return to their respective harbours and landing centres immediately.
It is of note that 68 Indian fishers were arrested in December and later released in January after the Ministry of External Affairs in India took up the issue with the Sri Lankan government. Ten of their trawler boats remain impounded in Sri Lankan fishing harbours.