Mounting an attack on arch rival and DMK President M Karunanidhi over the fishermen issue, Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on Friday accused him of being a “party” in India ceding Katchatheevu islet to Sri Lanka, by not moving court against the Centre’s decision.
“The key reason behind the arrest of Indian fishermen (from Tamil Nadu) by the Lankan navy is the ceding of Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka. Karunanidhi remained silent then without taking any action,” she said while addressing an election rally.
The Chief Minister was canvassing votes for 14 of her party nominees from the four districts of Viruthunagar, Sivaganga, Ramanathapuram and Thoothukudi. Katchatheevu, an islet on Palk Bay, was ceded to Sri Lanka by India by way of two agreements in 1974 and 1976.
It has since remained a flash point between Indo-Lanka relations, with Indian fishermen facing Lankan navy action, including firing for alleged violation of the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).
Jayalalithaa said that in an earlier case, India’s move to cede Perubari in West Bengal to then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was stopped following the Supreme Court’s observation that such a move could not happen without getting the nod of the two houses of Parliament, besides required constitutional amendments.
Karunanidhi could have used this precedence to stop the ceding of Katchatheevu, Jayalalithaa said.
“Why didn’t he do so? Only he has to answer. By doing so (not moving the court), he had betrayed Tamil Nadu and its fishermen. I strongly state that Karunanidhi was a party in ceding of Katchatheevu,” she charged.
Jayalalithaa said she had always accorded priority to this issue and pressed the Centre since 1991, when she first became Chief Minister, for retrieval of the islet. She said she had even proposed taking it on “lease in perpetuity”.
As the Centre did not act on her pleas, she moved the apex court in 2008 in the capacity of AIADMK General Secretary seeking retrieval of Katchatheevu, she recalled. She said that if Karunanidhi was really concerned about fishermen, he should have supported her and filed an affidavit on behalf of his government then.
Not only did he not support her, but also wanted to wait till the Centre filed its response, she said, adding he did not exert pressure on the UPA government, in which DMK was a key member, to act in Tamil Nadu’s favour. She dubbed as “drama” his filing a case in the Supreme Court later, seeking retrieval of Katchatheevu.
Jayalalithaa said she favoured talks to resolve the issue and that fishermen should benefit from the case she had filed in the SC. Therefore, three rounds of talks had been held between representatives of fishermen from the two countries,where many steps had been proposed, including stopping attacks on Indian fishermen. Though no final decision had been arrived at, talks will continue, she said.
“Further, katchatheevu will be retrieved with SC order and the traditional fishing rights of Indian fishermen will be restored,” she said.
She also took potshots at Karunanidhi for his party promising to retrieve Katchatheevu in its latest election manifesto, saying he had once remarked that fishermen went to Kathcatheevu “out of greed”.
Jayalalithaa also chided Karunanidhi for promising prohibition in Tamil Nadu if voted to power, saying he had relaxed the dry law in 1971, which was in vogue for long. She reiterated her promise to implement prohibition in a phased manner in the state