Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa has urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to look at the Sri Lankan Navy attacks on Indian fishermen hailing from the state as a national issue and not as a problem of Tamil Nadu alone.
In a letter to the prime minister on Monday, copies of which were released to the media on Tuesday, she said: "I would also like to emphasise that the harassment of the fishermen of Tamil Nadu should be viewed as an act of provocation and aggression against India by Sri Lanka, similar to acts of firing across the borders of India by neighbours such as Pakistan and China."
"The attacks on the fishermen belonging to Tamil Nadu should be viewed as a national issue and not as an isolated problem of Tamil Nadu alone," she said.
She urged Manmohan Singh to intervene on the issue and requested the Indian government to convey its serious objection to the Sri Lankan government with regard "to the continuous incidents of harassment and attacks on the fishermen of Tamil Nadu who seek to eke out their living peacefully in their traditional areas of fishing in the Palk Bay area".
Jayalalithaa said Indian fishermen were attacked by the Sri Lankan Navy Oct 8 - the very day when Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai called on her before leaving for Colombo.
"I brought the various incidents of attacks and harassment to his notice and requested him to take up the issues with the Government of Sri Lanka who, on the one hand, were participating in various Indo-Sri Lanka meetings in order to resolve the fishermen's problems and, on the other, were resorting to violence against our fishermen," the letter noted.
"...Even before the foreign secretary reached Colombo, the Sri Lankan Navy again chased away our fishermen in the sea by firing in the air, off Mandapam coast of Ramanathapuram district, and this incident has been widely reported in the print and electronic media," noted the letter.
According to her, there have been 16 incidents of attacks or harassment and apprehension of Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Sri Lankan authorities.
"There is a uniform pattern of either the personnel of the Sri Lankan Navy harassing or attacking the fishermen of Tamil Nadu fishing in the Palk Bay area or miscreants from Sri Lanka committing such acts," she said.
"A number of Indian fishermen have been injured in such attacks and there have been a number of instances of theft of their fish catch, damage to their fishing nets and snatching away of the personal belongings of the fishermen," the letter noted.