Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa ordering the release of five Tamil Nadu fishermen facing a narcotics case, ahead of his visit to India to take part in the swearing-in of Narendra Modi, has evoked mixed response in the State.

While most political parties have opposed Mr. Rajapaksa’s visit to India, fishermen’s associations have welcomed his ‘goodwill gesture’ with caution, saying India should use the occasion to ensure the security of Tamil Nadu fishermen, constantly attacked across the Palk Bay.

Ilango, chairperson of the National Fish Workers Forum, on Sunday urged Mr. Modi to “extract a promise” from Mr. Rajapaksa that all pending criminal cases in Sri Lanka against 14 Tamil Nadu fishermen would be withdrawn. Mr. Ilango, who represented the Indian side in the recent talks between fishermen of both countries, hoped that the visit could brighten the prospects for the third round of talks.

DMK deputy general secretary Durai Murugan said the decision would in no way help Tamils get justice for the “atrocities” committed against them.

‘Bolt from the blue’

For the family members of the five fishermen — P. Emerson (39), P. Augustin (32), R. Wilson (42), K. Prasad (32) and J. Langlet (22) of Thangachimadam near Rameswaram — the news of the order came as a “bolt from the blue.”

“I have been yearning to see my son; God has answered my prayers. Rajapaksavukku Koodana Kodi Nandri [Many thanks to Rajapaksa],” said Ms. Infanta, mother of Langlet.

U. Arulanandham, president of the Alliance for the Release of Innocent Fishermen, and fishermen leaders P. Sesu Raja and N. J. Bose hoped the gesture would pave the way for release of all Indian fishermen from Pakistani and Sri Lankan jails.

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