Hostile Sri Lankan action against Tamil Nadu fishermen straying into its territorial limits has become an emotive issue in the poll bound state and the arrest of 112 fishermen on Tuesday has triggered fresh protests.
The ruling DMK hit the streets on Wednesday demanding immediate release of the fishermen from Nagapattinam district, who were accosted by fishermen from Jaffna and handed over to the police under the watch of the Sri Lankan navy.
Nearly 2,000 DMK activists, including Rajya Sabha member and Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi, courted arrest after being prevented from marching to the Sri Lankan deputy high commissioner’s office in central Chennai.
In New Delhi, the issue was raised at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s interaction with television editors. Singh said the Centre had initiated action to free the fishermen.
In Colombo, a flurry of diplomatic activity was seen after a Jaffna court sent the fishermen to a 14 day judicial custody. Diplomatic sources said no development was likely on Thursday as it was a public holiday.
The Indian high commission in Colombo would appeal to the court on Friday for the discharge of the fishermen from jail.
For now, India’s consul general in Jaffna, V Mahalingam, has been granted access to the fishermen.
The mass arrest of the fishermen is the latest in a series of incidents that has upset Tamil Nadu.
In January, the Centre sent foreign secretary Nirupama Rao to the island nation to lodge a strong protest after members of the Lankan naval staff allegedly killed two Tamil Nadu fishermen on the high seas.
More than 150 Tamil Nadu fishermen have died in alleged Lankan action over the past decade. In the run-up to the polls, likely in May, the opposition AIADMK has accused the Centre of inaction on the issue.