A permanent solution to resolve the Tamil Nadu fishermen’s issue lies only in the retrieval of Katchatheevu islet, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Ms Jayalalithaa reiterated in a letter to Indian Prime Minister on Thursday. “The unconstitutional Indo-Sri Lankan Agreements of 1974 and 1976 should be nullified and the traditional rights of our fishermen to fish in the Palk Bay restored,” she told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in her letter. “Hence, the Government of India should not treat the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) with Sri Lanka as a settled question as the constitutionality of the 1974 and 1976 agreements have been challenged on extremely valid and legal grounds by me in my personal capacity and also by the Government of Tamil Nadu in the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.”
Full text of Tamil Nadu CM’s letter to Indian PM follows:
“It is with a deep sense of anguish that I write to you again to report one more incident in which 11 Indian fishermen along with 3 boats from Tamil Nadu have been apprehended by the Sri Lankan Navy. 11 fishermen in 3 mechanized fishing boats bearing registration Nos. IND/TN/10/MM/680, IND/TN/08/MM/113 and IND/TN/08/MM/186 set out to fish from Jegadhapattinam and Kottaipattinam fishing bases in Pudukkottai District. On the night of 23rd June, 2014, they were apprehended by the Sri Lankan Navy and taken to Kankesanthurai, Sri Lanka. This comes close on the heels of another incident on 19th June, 2014, when 1 boat and 7 fishermen from Nagapattinam fishing base of Nagapattinam District were apprehended off the East Coast of Sri Lanka. Those fishermen also continue to be in Sri Lankan custody.
I had last written to you about a similar incident on 18th June, 2014. The 46 Indian fishermen and their 11 boats apprehended on that occasion have also not been released.
In the meantime, on two previous occasions when I had brought such instances to your kind notice, your immediate action had ensured the release and repatriation of all the fishermen from Tamil Nadu, but unfortunately, while the fishermen have been released, their boats and fishing gear, which are essential for them to earn their livelihood, have not been released yet. Long periods of disuse would condemn the boats and equipment to ruin and the poor fishermen would be subjected to a huge permanent loss. Hence, it is essential that the early release of the boats and fishing gear are also secured.
In my letter dated 19th June, 2014, I had assured you that on its part, Tamil Nadu would work towards creating a conducive atmosphere, and we have also been in favour of bilateral talks between the fishermen associations of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka to ensure that day to day issues are sorted out.
However, as I have already pointed out to you in my previous letters, a permanent solution to the issue lies only in the retrieval of Katchatheevu islet, to which India has a strong legal and historical claim. The unconstitutional Indo-Sri Lankan Agreements of 1974 and 1976 should be nullified and the traditional rights of our fishermen to fish in the Palk Bay restored. Hence, the Government of India should not treat the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) with Sri Lanka as a settled question as the constitutionality of the 1974 and 1976 agreements have been challenged on extremely valid and legal grounds by me in my personal capacity and also by the Government of Tamil Nadu in the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India.
I have also requested you for a special package of measures to diversify fisheries in the Palk Bay area as part of my Memorandum dated 3.6.2014.
I am still very hopeful that the Government of India and the Government of Tamil Nadu, working in tandem, can find a lasting solution to the long-standing issue of the safety, security and livelihood of our fishermen in the Palk Bay. As I have already pointed out, this vexatious issue requires a concerted and sustained diplomatic effort to ensure that a permanent solution is delivered. Until such time, the Government of India must impress upon the Sri Lankan Government to abstain from attacks on and abduction of our innocent fishermen on the high seas in the Palk Bay. Further, the joint mechanisms which are designed to ensure the speedy release of apprehended fishermen should be effectively activated.
I exhort you to take up the issue at the highest level to secure the release of all the 64 Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu who are in Sri Lankan custody along with their 38 boats and arrange for their immediate repatriation.”
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