After having spent one-and-half months in Sri Lankan custody

Amid chaotic scenes at the Karaikal harbour and muffled cries from women, 26 fishermen, released from Sri Lankan custody after one and half months, arrived here on Friday morning.

Family members of the fishermen had their sights fixed over the boats ferrying their men home. Overwhelmed by fatigue and emotion, a woman fainted at the sight of her 19-year old son.

These fishermen were arrested and their five boats seized by the Sri Lankan Navy for allegedly fishing across the IMBL on April 5.

Speaking to The Hindu, Commandant Udhal Singh, Indian Coast Guard Station, Karaikal, said their release was ordered by the District Magistrate’s Court, Kayts Island.

The fishermen were handed over to the Sri Lankan Navy at Karainagar Jetty in Jaffna on Thursday.

They were later handed over to the Indian Coast Guard Ship Rani Abbakka along the IMBL, 53 nautical miles off Karaikal. “We were careful not to delay their return further by taking custody in Rameshwaram,” Commandant Udhal Singh, who supervised the transfer, said. The vessel escorted the boats up to the anchorage point three nautical miles off Karaikal, for the final transfer to the Fisheries Department.

The fishermen, tired from the harrowing wait, thanked Senthil Tondaiman, Uva Provincial Minister and advisor Sri Lanka-India Fishermen’s Association, for his efforts in securing their release.

“What our consulate could not do, Senthil Tondaiman did for us by tirelessly fighting for our release”, said Vetrivel.

Asked about the treatment meted out to them, fishermen had no complaints except for the living conditions in jail. “There were no urinals and we had to use bottles to relieve ourselves,” Kumar said (name changed).

Later, addressing the fishermen, Commandant Singh appealed to them to fish within the IMBL ‘with dignity.’ “By your arrests, you had abandoned your families for more than a month, without any security.”

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