Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Friday said incidents of abduction and detention of fishermen from Tamil Nadu for long periods in Sri Lankan prisons have multiplied as the Centre’s response remained “meek and pusillanimous”.
In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, released to the media on Saturday, Ms. Jayalalithaa said the Centre was taking little or no action to convey India’s strong protest or to use coercive diplomacy to put an end to “marauding attacks” on the fishermen.
The Chief Minister’s letter, in the backdrop of another “illegal apprehension” of 20 fishermen of Pudukottai district on November 21, said with the latest incident the number of fishermen, apprehended and remanded, languishing in Sri Lankan jails had gone up to 80. A total of 47 Indian fishing boats had also been detained by the Sri Lankan authorities.
Stating she was “extremely distressed” to be writing to him “yet again” bringing to his notice yet another instance of illegal apprehension of innocent Indian fishermen, Ms. Jayalalithaa urged Mr. Singh to personally intervene in the matter.
"Use the highest diplomatic channels of the Government of India to secure the immediate release of 80 fishermen,” she said.
Ms. Jayalalithaa said the Centre’s “insensitive handling” of the entire issue has led to repeated, increasingly frequent and brutal attacks on fishermen from Tamil Nadu who were peacefully pursuing their livelihood in their traditional fishing waters. The meek and pusillanimous response of the Centre to the repeated instances had emboldened the Sri Lankan Navy to illegally arrest and detain more and more fishermen.
The very serious livelihood problem of several thousand fishermen was, in fact, being relegated to the back-burner as something to be sorted out by the fishermen associations of both countries, she 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, who justifiably feel that they have been let down by their own national government,” Ms. Jayalalithaa said.