June 19, Chennai: Following the arrest of 46 Tamil Nadu fishermen by Sri Lanka Navy yesterday for poaching in Sri Lankan waters, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Thursday (June 19) wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi asking him to take immediate action through diplomatic channels secure to their release.
In her letter to Modi, Jayalalithaa cited the arrest of 46 fishermen along with their 11 boats by Lankan Navy yesterday in two separate incidents and said the latest "belligerent act" of the Sri Lankan Navy preventing the Indian fishermen from fishing in their traditional waters in Palk Bay adds to the immense frustration that has built up among the fishermen community of Tamil Nadu.
The Tamil Nadu government refuses to accept India's Supreme Court decision of 1974 to cede the disputed Katchatheevu Islet to Sri Lanka and still considers the Tamil Nadu fishermen have the rights to fish in the seas near the islet.
The Chief Minister wrote to Modi that her government strongly believes that the unconstitutional Indo-Sri Lankan Agreements of 1974 and 1976 should be nullified and the traditional rights of the fishermen restored at the earliest.
She told the Indian PM not to 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 in the Supreme Court of India.
"Our stand is that Katchatheevu has always been a part of India, geographically, culturally and historically and needs to be retrieved, keeping in view the livelihood interests and security of lakhs of Indian fishermen."
She expressed hope that her state government and the central Indian government "working in tandem, can find a lasting solution to this issue."
"The vexatious issue of ensuring the safety, security and livelihood of our fishermen in the Palk Bay requires a strong and sustained diplomatic response so that a lasting solution, including the restoration of fishing rights of Indian fishermen in their traditional fishing waters, is found," Jayalalithaa wrote.
She said the Tamil Nadu fishermen belonging to districts abutting the Palk Bay continue to fish for basic livelihood in their traditional waters where they have been historically fishing before any politically or any artificially drawn boundaries were created.
The Chief Minister, while noting that her government has taken many steps towards diversification of fishing activities amongst the Palk Bay fishing communities to reduce the pressure on Palk Bay, said Tamil Nadu is committed to continuing the bi-lateral fishermen level talks that were successful in the first round held in Chennai in January but failed in the second round held in Colombo in May.