A section of inmates at the Welikada prison here have launched a hunger strike since Thursday morning, complaining about the arbitrary release of some fellow prisoners under a common amnesty to coincide with the 2600th anniversary of Buddha's enlightenment. They wanted the government to release them too.

“The prison officers are currently negotiating with them and trying to ease the situation as soon as possible,” the Daily Mirror Online said, quoting an unnamed senior prison officer.

Prisoners, who spoke to The Hindu through a representative, said that on Wednesday as many as nine prisoners climbed onto the roof of one of the buildings and voiced the demand that they be released or shot dead.

Among the nine was an Indian, they said. They gave the name of the jailed Indian as Kannan.

He has been in the prison for 19 years. On Thursday, 11 others reportedly joined the convicts on the rooftop.

There are 43 Indians in the prison. Most of them have been jailed for trying to smuggle narcotic drugs into Sri Lanka. Last June, India and Sri Lanka reached an agreement on transfer of prisoners.

“This June 30 will mark the first anniversary of that agreement. So far not one Indian prisoner has been transferred to India under the agreement,” one source bemoaned.

The prisoners said that following the Agreement on Transfer of Sentenced Prisoners, they were handed consent forms by the Indian High Commission here.

They filled these forms, indicating that they were willing to spend the rest of their terms in Indian jails, and handed these back.

Officials here said that a formal request had already been made and they were waiting for the request to be processed.

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