Reiterating her appeal to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to personally intervene to stop attacks by Sri Lankan forces on the fishermen, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Tuesday said there was a stark contrast in the way the Centre responded to attacks on Tamil Nadu and Gujarat fishermen. The Centre, she said, which had a “dismissive attitude” when fishermen from Tamil Nadu were attacked, however, rightly lost no time in conveying its stern response to Pakistan when fishermen from Gujarat were fired at on the high seas. The response, Ms.Jayalalithaa said, was in the form of a summons to the Deputy High Commissioner of Pakistan to communicate its protest.
Her observations come weeks after Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, addressing a public meeting in Tiruchi, listed attacks on fishermen from external forces as a common issue for both the States.
The Centre’s response to the firing, in which one Gujarat fisherman was killed, came after Mr.Modi, who is also the Prime Ministerial candidate of BJP in the 2014 elections and scheduled to address a meeting in Chennai on Friday, urged the Centre to take a serious note and inquire into the incident.
Ms.Jayalalithaa, in a letter to Dr.Singh on Tuesday, said the continued “insensitive and ham-handed treatment of the Tamil Nadu fishermen issue in the Palk Bay is fast alienating the fishermen community in Tamil Nadu.” They feel that they have been let down by their own national government, she added.
The provocation for this letter – Ms.Jayalalithaa had been constantly writing to Dr.Singh on the issue – was apprehension on Monday of 22 fishermen in five mechanised fishing boats of Rameswaram and 15 fishermen of Pudukkotai in four mechanised boats by Sri Lankan Navy.
“The meek and pusillanimous response of the Government of India to these repeated attacks have emboldened the Sri Lankan Navy to mount more and more unprovoked attacks on our fishermen,” she said.
Regretting that none of her letters addressed to Dr.Singh on the subject had “evoked a substantive response”, Ms.Jayalalithaa said even when Union Minister for External Affairs Salman Khurshid visited Sri Lanka recently, there appears to have been little meaningful dialogue. She urged the Prime Minister to take up the matter with Sri Lankan government in a “tangible and meaningful manner” and instruct Indian diplomats there to seek release of 65 fishermen from Tamil Nadu.