The Pakistan Marine Security Agency (PMSA) apprehended 48 fishermen, along with their eight fishing trawlers, while they were fishing near the notional international maritime boundary line (IMBL) dividing the territorial waters of India and Pakistan at the Arabian Sea, fishermen leaders said on Wednesday.
“Fishermen at the sea have reported that the PMSA apprehended seven boats with 42 fishermen on board on Tuesday and one more boat with six fishermen on board on Wednesday. They have passed this news onto the shore through very high frequency (VHF) radio messages.
However, no information is available from the Pakistan side about these developments so far,” Manish Lodhari, secretary of the Gujarat chapter of National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF), an association of fishermen, told The Indian Express.
Lodhari, based in Porbandar, said that of the eight fishing trawlers reported to have been apprehended by the Pakistan coast guard, six are registered in Porbandar and two in Veraval.
“These are the first detentions of Indian fishing boats by Pakistan this fishing season,” he said. “Though the fishing season started on August 1 this year, the sea remained rough due to inclement weather and it is only recently that fishermen started setting sails.”
Jadavji Posteria, secretary of the Porbandar Jilla Machhimar Mahamandal, an association of fishermen of Porbandar district, also said that they, too, received similar messages. “But we don’t know names of boats and fishermen aboard them,” he said.
Jivan Jungi, president of Porbandar district unit of Sagar Party, an association working for welfare of fishermen, said, “At least one fishing trawler has certainly been apprehended. Many a time, the PMSA rounds up a group of trawlers for alleged violation of its territorial waters, but then releases a few of them. Leaders of the Pakistani fishermen community have also been demanding a no-arrest policy in cases of inadvertent violation of territorial waters of the other country.”
Officials of the fisheries department of the Gujarat government said they were also waiting for confirmation of the messages. “We are learning through the media and fishermen leaders that some boats have been apprehended. We have enquired with the Indian Navy, but have not got any confirmation as yet,” said KR Patani, deputy director of fisheries, adding that it generally takes about a day for them to receive credible information about such incidents.
Pakistan and India have disagreements over the alignment of the IMBL. Consequently, the PMSA apprehends at least a few hundred Indian fishermen for the alleged violation of its territorial waters and also seizes their boats. On the other hand, the Indian Coast Guard also arrests a few dozen Pakistani fishermen for allegedly crossing over to the Indian side of the IMBL.
Activists such as Jatin Desai, the Mumbai-based journalist who was serving as the secretary of the Indian chapter of Pakistan-India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy, have been advocating a no-arrest policy in cases of violations of the maritime boundary line by fishermen.
They are demanding that coast guards of both the countries should release fishermen and their boats after searching their craft and if nothing incriminating is found.
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