July 02, Chennai: The Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu state of India, J. Jayalalithaa said she was "appalled and shocked" by the Indian center government's that Katchatheevu Island is Sri Lanka's sovereign property and Indian fishermen have no traditional fishing rights in the area around the islet.
In a letter to the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister said the counter affidavit filed by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs before the Madras High Court in Chennai in Writ Petitions filed by the Fisherman Care of Pallavaram comes as a "rude shock".
In the affidavit the Indian government said the Katchatheevu islet is a sovereign property of Sri Lanka ceded to island nation by the 1974 and 1976 agreements between the two countries and the agreements do not confer any fishing rights on fishermen from India in the islet.
The Chief Minister in her letter said the counter affidavit had been prepared and approved by the earlier UPA Government and the matter was not brought to the PM's personal attention.
Reminding the Prime Minister that she has raised the issue in an earlier memorandum to him, Ms. Jayalalithaa said it has always been the stand of her Government that Katchatheevu is an integral part of the territory of India.
She said the uninhabited island in Palk Strait is part of Ramanthapuram District of Tamil Nadu and there is documentary proof for the ownership.
The Chief Minister said the Indian fishermen enjoyed traditional fishing rights in and around the island but the 1974 and 1976, agreements ceded Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka and the fishermen of Tamil Nadu have been deprived of their fishing rights around Katchatheevu and the Palk Bay ever since then.
Under the treaty agreement of 1974, Indian fishermen have lost the rights to fishing around the island as it is within the territorial waters of Sri Lanka and the 1976 agreement has established the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL), which the fishermen in the two countries are not allowed to cross into each other's territory.
Ms. Jayalalithaa in her letter claimed that Katchatheevu was ceded to Sri Lanka without a Constitutional amendment and hence the ceding is unlawful and not valid.
"The unconstitutional ceding of the island and the fishing grounds in the vicinity have emboldened the Sri Lankan Navy to resort to frequent attacks on our innocent fishermen who fish in their traditional fishing grounds," she noted.
She reminded the PM that she has repeatedly emphasized in her letters to him that the question of sovereignty over Katchatheevu should not be treated as a settled issue.
The Chief Minister asked the Prime Minister Modi without further delay to have the matter reviewed and direct the concerned officials to file an appropriately revised affidavit in the Court which adequately reflects the Tamil Nadu's concerns.