The Sri Lankan Navy has arrested 12 Indian fishermen from Rameswaram and seized two mechanized boats belonging to them, and accused them of poaching in the country's territorial waters, an official statement said on Sunday. The incident occurred on Saturday and the fishermen, according to information, are lodged in Sri Lankan jail.
At least 1,200 fishermen from Rameswaram had ventured into the sea in 400 mechanized boats on Friday. Twelve of them were fishing near the Dhanushodi-Thalaimannar region in the Palk Strait when the Sri Lankan Navy intercepted them and charged them for crossing the International Marine Boundary Line (IMBL) and arrested them. The arrests were made in the seas north of Talaimannar. They were indulging in bottom trawling, the Navy alleged.
The arrested fishermen have been identified as Xavier, Raja, Napolean, Padalam, Jeromiyas, Arockiadas, Raman, James, Ranjith, Muneeshwaran, Sekar and Mukta, from Rameswaram.
Fishermen associations in Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu have been protesting since February 9 demanding the release of 11 fishermen from Akkarapettai in Nagapattinam district who were arrested by the Sri Lankan authorities on February 8. Leader of the Fishermen association S Jesu Raja has already sent appeals to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin to intervene for the immediate release of the fishermen.
This is the third arrest of Indian fishermen in the Sri Lankan waters during this month. On February 8, the Navy arrested 11 Indian fishermen and seized three fishing trawlers and 21 Indian fishermen were arrested on February 1.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking to take immediate steps for facilitating their release. “I wish to bring to your immediate attention the repeated instances of intimidation and attack on fishermen from Tamil Nadu by the Sri Lankan Navy. Today, yet another incident has been reported and twelve fishermen from Rameswaram have been apprehended. Such incidents are happening with alarming regularity, causing deep distress to the people of Tamil Nadu,” Stalin said in the letter.
‘The fishermen had ventured out for fishing from Rameswaram base in two mechanised fishing boats on February 12, and they were arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy in the early hours of February 13, and taken to Talaimannar. This is the third such incident in two weeks and 41 fishermen, six fishing boats are in the custody of the Sri Lankan Navy’, the letter read.
Stating that these repeated arrests and harassment have caused a sense of insecurity in Tamil Nadu’s fishermen community, particularly in the Palk Bay area, and have adversely affected their livelihoods, he added that it was extremely vital to find a lasting solution to the vexatious and long-pending issue through collaborative efforts of the Union and State governments. As a preliminary step, consultations may be initiated to convene bilateral talks.
He further added, “As the COVID-19 situation has eased, I request you to press for the resumption of deliberations through the Joint Working Group Meeting (JWG) immediately. Further, talks between the fishermen of the two countries may also be facilitated to ease the tension in the area. I also urge you to take immediate steps to expedite the release of 41 fishermen from Tamil Nadu”.
It is to be noted that he had earlier written to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on February 1, urging the Union government to find a permanent solution to the Indian fishermen issue involving Sri Lanka through 'tangible mechanisms' and secure the immediate release of 21 fishermen and their boats from the island nation's custody.
(With inputs from PTI and IANS)