Protest delay in release of 19 fishermen detained by Sri Lankan Navy

Rameswaram fishermen with their family members staged a rail roko, detaining the Chennai-bound Sethu Express for an hour at Thangachimadam, near here on Saturday.

Protesting against the delay in releasing the 19 fishermen arrested on March 13, about 3,000 fishermen, including 1,000 women and children squatted on the tracks, holding up the train from 5.10 p.m. to 6.10 p.m. according to officials.

The fishermen, who have been on strike from March 13, urged the State and Centre to take speedy action to secure the release of the fishermen, presently lodged in Anurathapuram prison.

President of the Rameswaram Port Mechanised Boat Fishermen Association, N. J. Bose and District Secretary, Tamil Nadu Mechanised Boat Fishermen Association, P. Sesu Raja faulted the Centre for not taking any initiative to secure the release of the fishermen even after the State government withdrew cases against five Sinhalese fishermen and ordered their release.

They said Collector K. Nanthakumar held a meeting with the leaders of fishermen associations on Saturday morning and urged them to give up the agitation, stating that the government was taking steps to secure the release, but they were not convinced and decided to go ahead with the agitation.

They said the fishermen had warned of a rail roko agitation on March 22, when they staged a demonstration after laying siege to the head post office here.

“As the Lankan court has extended the remand, we are forced to go ahead with the rail roko agitation,” he said.

Mr. Sesu Raja told The Hindu that the leaders would meet on Sunday to decide whether to continue the strike.

As only few days of fishing are left before the 45-day ban comes into force, the fishermen might call off the strike and resume fishing on Monday, he indicated.

The Sri Lankan Navy had detained 19 fishermen on the night of March 13 and 34 fishermen the following morning, for allegedly fishing in Sri Lankan waters after crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line. When the State government lodged its protest, the Lankan authorities released 34 fishermen, while remanding 19 in judicial custody.

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