Resolve to intensify efforts for the release of colleagues

Fishermen from India and Pakistan have resolved to intensify efforts for the release of their colleagues and their boats following increase in arrests by the Indian Coast Guard as well as Pakistan’s Maritime Security Agency (MSA) after the monsoon trawl ban was lifted in September.

Around 229 fishermen and 800 boats are in Pakistan’s custody while around 200 Pakistani fishermen and 150 boats are in Indian custody, according to the India-based National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF) and the Pakistan India People’s Forum for Peace and Democracy.

As part of these efforts, Pakistani fishermen will move their Supreme Court for the release of all fishermen and their boats. A similar case is being argued at the Supreme Court here.

Over the last two days, fishermen from Gujarat had met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar seeking a ‘no-arrest’ policy by both countries.

At a one-day consultation with experts here on Sunday, fishermen from both countries sought a Maritime Economic Co-operation Agreement, an end to the unwanted violence and arrests in the Arabian Sea and resolution of the Sir Creek dispute.

Present at the consultations was the family of Naranbhai Sosa, shot dead on the high seas allegedly by Pakistan MSA, a charge Islamabad denies. Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) president Karamat Ali condemned his killing and demanded an immediate meeting of the Pakistan MSA and Indian Coast Guard to observe humane rules for dealing with fisher-people who might have transgressed the international maritime boundary line.

NFF Chairman M ILango wanted the Indian fishing community to support those forces in the coming elections that support the demands expressed at the consultations.

Pakistani labour expert J John argued that the issue should be seen from the point of view of traditional and customary rights of fisherfolk that precede the partition of India and Pakistan.

The consultations were also attended by Kuldip Nayar, Tapan Bose, Jatin Desai, Jivan Jungi, Bharat Mody, Hansa Suyani, Gautam Mody, Narendra R Patil, Ashok Choudhary, T. Peter and Olencio Simoes.