India should send out a “strong and robust diplomatic response”

With more Indian fishermen arrested by the Sri Lankan Navy on charges of poaching — the arrests totalled 82 on Sunday morning — Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging the Centre to “strongly and decisively deal” with Sri Lanka on this issue.

Eighteen trawlers of Tamil Nadu fishermen have also been seized by the Sri Lankan Navy, even as the arrests had been made in different places since Saturday evening.

Fortyone fishermen were taken into custody off Thalaimannar, 32 for alleged illegal fishing off the Delft Islands, and nine others off Thalaimannar in the early hours of Sunday, officials of the Indian Consulate in Jaffna said. A total of 16 trawlers were seized from the first two groups (eight from each), according to Sri Lankan Navy Spokesman Commander Kosala Warnakulasuriya. Two trawlers were impounded from the third group.

Indian Consulate officials said the fishermen were likely to be handed over to the magistrate courts in Mannar and Jaffna on Monday. When reached by The Hindu, Sri Lankan Fisheries Minister Rajitha Senaratne said: “We will confiscate the trawlers and other fishing gear, but we will release the fishermen.”

In Chennai, dashing off a second letter to Mr. Modi in eight days on this issue, Ms. Jayalalithaa pointed to the Sri Lankan Navy arresting 82 “innocent” fishermen from Tamil Nadu and said “a permanent solution to this problem must be found by a decisive initiative under your leadership.” India should send out a “strong and robust diplomatic response,” she stressed.

 “New strategy” shocks fishermen

 Even as 26 of the arrested fishermen were said to be from Karaikal and Pudukottai district, further south in Rameswaram, the latest arrest of 82 fishermen has come as a shock. Coming close on the heels of the repatriation of 33 fishermen arrested on June 1, fishermen leaders expressed dismay at Sri Lanka’s “new strategy” of confiscating trawlers and fishing gear while agreeing to release fishermen. “To confiscate boats and fishing gear of hapless fishermen who put out to sea for their livelihood” smacked of an “evil design,” said U. Arulanandam, president of the Alliance for the Release of Innocent Fishermen.

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