After spending more than a year in detention in Pakistan, 20 fishermen from Andhra Pradesh can finally return home very soon. Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reportedly announced its decision to release the fishermen and send them back to India through the Wagah border on January 6.
The fishermen had been detained by the Pakistan Marine Security Agency off the Gujarat coast in November 2018. According to officials, they were detained near the International Maritime Boundary Line in the Arabian Sea on charges of entering Pakistan's territorial waters.
According to reports, 22 Andhra fishermen had been detained in total. The men had reportedly migrated to Gujarat from Srikakulam and Vizianagaram districts of north coastal Andhra. The men had reportedly ventured into the sea on three boats and were taken to Karachi by the Pakistan Marine Security Agency. According to the Andhra Pradesh government, the 22 fishermen from Andhra Pradesh were reportedly among a total of 483 Indian fishermen detained by Pakistan’s security forces.
While reports state 22 fishermen were detained in Pakistan, the Andhra Pradesh government release, as well as the release from the Pakistan government, names a total of 20 fishermen who are set to return to India.
The fishermen’s families had earlier appealed to the state government to take steps to ensure their immediate return. They had met different authorities, including Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy who was then on his Praja Sankalpa Yatra, according to reports. A relative of one of the detained men had reportedly said that the men could’ve only crossed the border unknowingly, with no intent of harm.
YSRCP MP V Vijayasai Reddy had earlier met the then External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj along with the family members of the 22 fishermen. Sushma Swaraj had then assured that their release would be ensured through diplomatic channels. Vijayasai Reddy had also written to the present External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in August, seeking their release. A delegation of YSRCP MPs had also met the External Affairs Minister about three weeks ago, in December 2019, urging him to take steps on the issue.
Fishermen from coastal Andhra seasonally migrate to Gujarat every year, arriving in September and returning in March. A sizeable population of fishermen from the state also travel to Gujarat in ‘jellyfish season’ between the months of June to July and November to December, returning by January or February.