In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Jayalalithaa said the boat which carried five fishermen from Tamil Nadu last week “drifted ashore” due to an engine snag following which they were arrested by the Sri Lankan government.
“This appears to be an ‘inhumane’ act of arresting fishermen in distress at sea,” she said in the letter.Pointing out that 24 fishermen and 93 fishing boats were already in the custody of Sri Lanka, Jayalalithaa said the strategy of not releasing the boats is causing “great frustration” among the fishermen in Tamil Nadu.
“I urge you to take this up with the highest authorities of the Sri Lankan Government and ensure the immediate release of fishermen and the precariously berthed boats,” she said.
Denying fishermen the right to peaceful fishing in their traditional waters of the Palk Bay to which “they have a historical claim” is causing “considerable angst among the fisherfolk of Tamil Nadu” she said.
“The Government of Tamil Nadu strongly reiterates the need to restore the traditional fishing rights of our fishermen in the Palk Bay by annulling the Indo-Sri Lankan agreements of 1974 and 1976” ceding Katchatheevu to the island nation, she said.
“The constitutional validity of these agreements has been challenged on very valid legal grounds in the Hon’ble Supreme Court by me and the Government of Tamil Nadu has subsequently impleaded itself,” she said.
She sought Modi’s personal intervention “to secure the release of 29 fishermen and 94 fishing boats at the earliest” and requested him to instruct the Ministry of External Affairs to take urgent steps in the matter.