Repeated abductions and detentions (of fishermen) have sent shock waves throughout the community, the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister said in her letter to the Prime Minister.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has said the continuing attacks on and abduction of Tamil Nadu fishermen by Sri Lanka “will not make for a congenial atmosphere for any meaningful talks even at the level of fishermen associations of the two countries.”

She said this, in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday, while reiterating her position that Centre must take a strong line and prevail upon the Sri Lankan government to end unprovoked attacks and arrests.

Ms. Jayalalithaa, who had written several times to Dr. Singh on the issue seeking intervention of the Centre, despatched the latest letter in the wake of the Sri Lankan Navy apprehending 22 fishermen from Pudukottai district along with their six fishing boats on December 28, 2013. The next day, 18 fishermen of Pamban in Ramanathapuram district with their three motorised vallams were apprehended.

“With this, there have been six incidents of apprehension by the Sri Lankan Navy during December 2013 and these repeated abductions and detentions have sent shock waves throughout the fishermen community in Tamil Nadu,” the Chief Minister said in the letter, which was released to the media on Tuesday. The list included “the unethical, illegal and inhuman arrest of 111 innocent Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu along with their 15 fishing boats on December 12, 2013”.

Noting that the right of livelihood of Tamil Nadu fishermen to fish in their traditional waters of the Palk Bay, “to which they have a historic claim was being infringed upon repeatedly and effectively abrogated by Sri Lanka,” Ms. Jayalalithaa blamed the Centre for ceding Katchatheevu. “This is caused in no small measure due to the Government of India having entered into an ill-advised agreement which ceded the islet of Katchatheevu, historically part of India’s territory and undisputedly an integral part of India,” she said.

Unabated, brutal, unprovoked attacks and instances of opening of fire on “our innocent fishermen have been carried out by the marauding Sri Lankan Navy”, despite several joint statements and declarations by both the Government of India and the Government of Sri Lanka to desist from such activities. The meek and weak response of the Centre to the repeated instances of abduction and attacks on the fishermen in their traditional waters had emboldened the Sri Lankan Navy to act brutally against the fishermen, she said.

Ms. Jayalalithaa recalled that, in her previous letters, she had exhorted Dr. Singh to summon the Sri Lankan High Commissioner and “register the strongest disapproval of the belligerent actions of the Sri Lankan Navy and also to take up this issue personally at the highest level.”

She noted that Tamil Nadu fishermen, in an accommodative frame of mind, were eager to sort out the day to day issues faced by them by engaging in talks with the fishermen from Sri Lanka. “Even though the situation is tense in the coastal districts of Tamil Nadu because of the continued imprisonment of our fishermen, the Fishermen Associations have represented to the State government to facilitate the bilateral fishermen level talks and they have requested me to fix the venue and time for such a meeting”.

In view of their sentiments and desire for such talks and in the interest of keeping a channel of communication open between the fishermen communities of both the countries, the State government on December 23 proposed that arrangements may be made to have the next round of talks between the fishermen belonging to Tamil Nadu and their counterparts in Sri Lanka at Chennai on January 20. Though the agenda and the list of participants for the meeting have been sent to the Centre, which as per media reports was also agreeable to the date, the State government was awaiting a formal confirmation from the Centre, she said.

It was unfortunate, Ms. Jayalalithaa said, that in a situation where the State government was taking a conciliatory approach and helping to facilitate fishermen-level talks, the instances of attack on and abduction of the fishermen continue unabated. “The continuance of such attacks and abductions will not make for a congenial atmosphere for any meaningful talks even at the level of fishermen associations of the two countries,” she said, while urging the Prime Minister to secure the immediate release of 256 Indian fishermen languishing in Sri Lankan jails.

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