Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa on Friday asked the Central government to initiate ‘decisive measures’ for the release of Tamil Nadu fishermen arrested by Sri Lankan Navy and find a permanent solution to the issue.
In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Jayalalithaa said close on the heels of the arrest of 15 fishermen in two fishing boats from Nagapattinam fishing base on September 21, the Sri Lankan Navy had apprehended six more with two mechanised fishing boats who went for fishing from Jegathapattinam in Pudukottai District.
In the letter, a copy of which was released to the media, she said the arrest of these “innocent fishermen,” the sole breadwinners of their families, will severely affect their dependants. “As I have repeatedly pointed out, the right of livelihood of our fishermen to fish in their traditional waters of the Palk Bay to which they have a historical claim is infringed upon repeatedly and effectively by Sri Lanka.”
“This is caused in no small measure due to the Government of India having entered into an ill-advised agreement, which ceded the islet of Katchatheevu, historically part of India’s territory and undisputedly an integral part of India,” to Sri Lanka, she said.
Jayalalithaa recalled she had filed a case in the Supreme Court challenging the validity of the pacts in which the state government had subsequently impleaded itself. Jayalalithaa said Sri Lankan government was “practising a strategy” of impounding the boats and other fishing equipment while releasing Indian fishermen, which would impact them as they cannot carry on their vocation in the absence of boats.
“I request the Government of India to initiate decisive measures to find a permanent solution to this sensitive livelihood issue of our fishermen. I request your immediate and personal intervention to secure the release of the 21 fishermen and 30 fishing boats in Sri Lankan custody,” she said in the letter.
On September 22, Jayalalithaa had written to Modi voicing concern over the arrest of 15 fishermen by Lankan navy in the ‘vicinity’ of and raising the demand that India “retrieve” the islet from Sri Lanka.