Sept 02, Colombo: The recent arrest of 35 fishermen from India's Tamil Nadu state by the Sri Lankan Navy and issue of Sri Lanka's Katchatheevu Islet were hotly debated in the Upper House of the Indian parliament today.
When the Rajaya Sabha convened this morning the Tamil Nadu MP M.K. Kanimozhi of Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) party raised the issue of the fishermen still detained in a Sri Lankan jail for crossing the International maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) into Sri Lankan waters for illegal fishing.
Stating that the Sri Lankan Navy between July 31 and August 26 has arrested 194 Indian fishermen and they are still languishing in Sri Lankan jails, Kanimozhi said there is no option but to come to the House to raise the issue to get them released.
"The waters between India and Sri Lanka have been traditional fishing areas for our fishermen from time immemorial, and crossing the international maritime boundary cannot be a statutory offence," the Tamil Nadu MP said.
According to Kanimozhi, another five fishermen have been kept in Sri Lankan jail since November, 2011 without trial.
Speaking of the controversial Katchatheevu islet that was ceded to Sri Lanka under an order by the Indian Supreme Court, the DMK parliamentarian said the affidavit filed by the Central Government in the Supreme Court on the issue of the islet is highly condemnable.
The Central government in an affidavit said to the apex court said that no Indian territory, including Katchatheevu, was ceded to Sri Lanka, and the question of retrieval did not arise.
The Indian government submitted the affidavit in response to a petition filed by the Tamil Nadu seeking the Supreme Court to declare the Agreements signed 1974 and 1976 between New Delhi and Colombo regarding the islet as unconstitutional and order to take the islet back from Sri Lanka.
At this point Kanimozhi's speech was interrupted by the deputy chairman of the House as she has gone over her allotted time.
Taking up the issue, Tamil Nadu MP D. Raja said the Government of India has got a political and moral responsibility to protect the fishermen emphasized that the central government should look at them not as Tamil fishermen but as Indian fishermen.
Dr. V. Maitreyan, another MP of Tamil Nadu said in spite of repeated reminders from the Chief Minister and in spite of the Calling Attention Motion moved by him in the House, the Government of India has not done anything.
"They should understand that when persuasive diplomacy did not work; coercive diplomacy will have to be adopted," he said.
Another parliamentarian from Karnataka interjected that the Government of India engage Sri Lanka and then review the accession of Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka since it is becoming a flash point. He said the Government of India should take the fishermen issue seriously.
A member of Congress Mani Shankar Aiyar meanwhile stressed that that the Government of India has arrangements, signed arrangements, with the Government of Sri Lanka in terms of which these issues have to be resolved and they must invoke those clauses.
Deputy Chairman agreed to the suggestion that India must strictly enforce the agreements with Sri Lanka on the fishermen issue.