They narrate how week-long detention has exhausted them

Twenty-four Rameswaram and Nambuthalai fishermen, who were arrested by the Sri Lankan navy early this month and released by a Sri Lankan court on March 13, returned home on Monday, ending their week-long miseries in the prison.

The Sri Lankan navy arrested 15 country boat fishermen from Nambuthalai with their three ‘Vallams’ on March 5 and nine mechanised boat fishermen from Rameswaram with their two boats on March 6 on charges of illegal fishing in the island nation’s waters.

After they were released on March 13, the Sri Lankan navy handed them over to the Indian Coast Guard at the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) south off Katchatheevu on Monday morning and the fishermen reached the fishing jetty here around 2.30 p.m.

The haggard fishermen said that for about a week they had undergone untold miseries as they were lodged in the crowded Anurathapuram prison.

They were to be lodged in the Vavuniya prison but were taken to Anurathapuram for want of space in Vavuniya, sources here said. “My token number was 901 and there were about 1,000 prisoners in the hall. We were jostling for space and woke up around 4 a.m. every day to use the toilets,” said M. Mohan (34), a fisherman from Karaiyur.

He said that the food was horrible and they avoided taking the food for the first two days but were forced to take it later as they had no other option, he said. They were let out for about an hour in the morning for taking bath in the open and an hour in the evening.

“There were all kinds of prisoners in the huge hall. Some were sick and some with foul-smelling wounds discharging blood and pus,” said T.Jayaraman (38), a country boat fisherman from Thondi.

He refused to take further queries saying “I just cannot explain the miseries we suffered. There was hardly any space to stretch out and sleep, he said, adding “we will bump into one another if we tried to turn and change the position while sleeping,” he said.

The fishermen, however, were unanimous that they were well taken care of by the officials of the Consulate General of India in Jaffna after they were released from the prison till they were repatriated.

The officials gave them new T shirts and lungis besides good food. The Talaimannar police were also courteous to them, they said.

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