Fishermen in Rameswaram, Mandapam and Pamban have come under one umbrella to stage a rail roko agitation at Pamban on Thursday, demanding the release of 41 fishermen from Rameswaram and 35 from Pamban lodged in Sri Lankan prisons for more than a month.

Leaders of 11 associations in Rameswaram, seven in Mandapam and three in Pamban met on Saturday and decided to launch the agitation in Pamban at 3 p.m. on Thursday and block the Tirupathi Express, scheduled to leave Rameswaram at 4 p.m., P. Sesu Raja, district secretary, Tamil Nadu Coastal Mechanised Boat Fishermen Association, said.

“The agitation is to draw the attention of the Central and State governments to secure the release of fishermen from Sri Lankan’s jails and to protect the livelihood of the island’s fishermen,” he said, adding the entire fishing community, including women and children, would take part in the agitation.

He said fishermen of both Rameswaram and Pamban had been on an indefinite strike for more than a week protesting against the extension of the judicial remand of the fishermen, arrested by the Lankan Navy for alleged illegal fishing in their waters, but Indian authorities took no efforts to secure their release.

Traditional rights

The agitation would also demand their traditional rights to fish in the Palk Bay, he noted.

As the fishing activities came to a standstill, a section of the fishermen moved to Kerala, Mangalore and other places, while others were pledging their jewellery to meets both ends meet, he said.

Mr.Raja said the leaders would announce the next course of agitation if the fishermen were not released.

The Lankan courts extended the remand of the Rameswaram fishermen till September 20 and Pamban fishermen till September 23.

Meanwhile, country boat fishermen in Mandapam abstained from fishing on Monday, expressing solidarity with Rameswaram and Pamban fishermen.

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