DMK President M Karunanidhi on Tuesday hits back at Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa over Katchatheevu issue, refuting her charge that he did nothing to prevent the ceding of the island to Sri Lanka and questioned what she has been doing since 1991 when she promised to retrieve it.
“As far as Katchatheevu is concerned, I never accepted its ceding nor did I agree to it. I had expressed my opposition then as the Chief Minister of the state,” he said.
Karunanidhi was responding to Jayalalithaa’s sharp criticism of his party and himself on the issue in the Assembly on Monday when she accused them of doing “nothing” to prevent the ceding of Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka in the 1970s.
Jayalalitha had likened DMK to ‘Rip Van Winkle’, an easygoing character from an English short story who goes on a slumber for 20 years, for “sleeping” over the issue and raising it now in the Assembly.
In a detailed letter to partymen, Karunanidhi recalled a resolution moved by him in the Assembly in August 1974, expressing ‘deep regret’ over the then Central government’s move to cede the islet in the Palk Strait, besides calling for a review of the decision.
The DMK patriarch recalled that he had then said the people of Tamil Nadu would not like the ceding of the islet, which is at the centre of the dispute over fishing rights of Tamil Nadu fishermen in the Palk Strait.
He also said he had written to then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, expressing “deep sense of disappointment” over the Indo-Lankan agreement.
There was a ‘sudden announcement’ on the Centre’s decision in this regard and after coming across reports about it, he had immediately contacted state opposition leaders “and we had always shown concern in this matter and never been a party to the ceding,” he said.
Questioning his arch-rival Jayalalithaa, Karunanidhi claimed that despite the assembly passing a resolution in 1992 seeking the islet’s retrieval, she as the then Chief Minister had told the House that there was no sign of it happening in the nearest future.
In a letter to then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao in 1994, Jayalalithaa had said that the “ceding of this tiny island to the island nation had been done by the Government of India in the interest of better bilateral relations.”
On another occasion, she had written to the Centre saying the “best possible solution” to the matter was to get the islet and adjacent seas on “lease in perpetuity.