Ten more fishermen from the state were on Sunday arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy for allegedly fishing in the island nation’s waters, taking the total number of those held in the past one week to 20, as the state government sought the Centre’s intervention to secure their release.
The fishermen from Rameswaram and Pudukottai district were apprehended and their boats impounded in two separate incidents, for allegedly fishing in their territorial waters. As the latest arrest came barely days after Sri Lanka agreed to release the 51 fishermen already in its custody, Chief Minister O Panneerselvam wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking his intervention to secure the release of the 20 fishermen.
Panneerselvam thanked Modi for ensuring the release of 51 Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu, but rued over the arrest of 20 fishermen, including 10 on Sunday.
“Unfortunately, even before the sense of relief following the release of the 51 fishermen could fully set in and the released fishermen reached our shores, the Sri Lankan navy has yet again resorted to its harsh and unjust tactic of apprehending Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu while peacefully pursuing their avocation in the traditional fishing waters of the Palk Bay,” he said in the letter.
The state government “is extremely concerned about the continuing frequent apprehension and detention of our fishermen,” Panneerselvam said. “As you are aware, in 2016 itself 290 Tamil Nadu fishermen along with their 53 fishing boats were apprehended in 39 incidents. Subsequently, all 290 fishermen were released due to the unstinted efforts of our revered leader the late Chief Minister Puratchi Thalaivi Amma (Jayalalithaa),” he noted.
He recalled that even though Sri Lanka released the fishermen, it however, did not return their boats and fishing gear, their “only livelihood means”. Jayalalithaa had often pointed out that “this was part of a sinister strategy to immiserate our fisherman community,” by Sri Lanka, he said, adding such a move was “fuelling despondency and great unrest amongst the fishermen.”