As the arrest of Indian fishermen by Sri Lankan Navy continued unabated with 11 more being detained in the latest midsea action, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Tuesday again sought Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s personal intervention in securing the release of all fishermen jailed in the island.
“It is with a deep sense of anguish that I write to you again to report one more incident in which 11 fishermen from Tamil Nadu along with their three boats have been apprehended by Sri Lankan Navy,” she said in her letter to Modi.
While these 11 fishermen from Pudukottai along with their boats were arrested in the latest incident, another 53 fishermen and 12 boats, apprehended in two separate incidents on June 18 and 19 “continue to be in Sri Lankan custody,” she said.
Jayalalithaa further renewed her plea for nullifying what she described as “unconstitutional” Indo-Sri Lankan Agreements of 1974 and 1976 on Katchatheevu islet and demanded steps be taken to restore the traditional rights of Indian fishermen.
Lankan Navy personnel arrested 11 fishermen while they were fishing in the sea between Katchatheevu and Neduntheevu in the wee hours Tuesday.
The Chief Minister also recalled the Prime Minister’s intervention in such instances earlier, wherein fishermen arrested from Tamil Nadu were released by Lankan officials and wanted their boats and fishing gears, which continued to be confiscated should also be released immediately.
Reiterating that the Centre should not treat the International Maritime Boundary Line with Sri Lanka as a settled question, she recalled her petitions in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the 1974 and 1976 agreements.
“I am still very hopeful that the Government of India and the Government of Tamil Nadu, working in tandem, can find a lasting solution to the long-standing issue of the safety, security and livelihood of our fishermen in the Palk Bay,” she said.
As this “vexatious” issue required a concerted and sustained diplomatic effort to ensure that a permanent solution is delivered, the Centre must impress upon Sri Lankan Government to abstain from attacks and abduction of our innocent fishermen on the high seas in the Palk Bay till then.