Eight of them are from Mandapam and 11 from Kottaipattinam in Pudukottai

A day after Chief Minister Jayalalithaa took exception to Sri Lankan Navy arresting Tamil Nadu fishermen, the Lankan Navy arrested 19 fishermen and seized their trawlers early on Sunday.

The fishermen – 8 belonging to Mandapam in two boats and 11 of Kottaipattinam in Pudukottai district in three boats - were fishing off ‘Naina theevu,’ when the Lankan Navy arrested them on charges of crossing into the Lankan waters and indulging in illegal fishing.

The fishermen were produced before a Magistrate in Kayts and remanded in judicial custody till February 14, according to U. Arulanandham, president of the Alliance for the Release of Innocent Fishermen (ARIF) here.

About 1,500 fishermen had set out for fishing in about 350 trawlers on Saturday morning from Mandapam, Jahir Hussain, fishermen leader from the area, said.

Only on January 30, the Lankan Navy had arrested 38 Rameswaram fishermen. The arrest came a couple of days after the representatives of Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu and Sri Lankan fishermen began bilateral talks in Chennai to find an amicable solution to the dispute over fishing in the Palk Bay.

Ms. Jayalalithaa had condemned the arrest, saying it had vitiated the environment of goodwill created after the talks and sought Prime Minister’s intervention to secure the release of the arrested fishermen.

She wanted the Prime Minister to decisively impress upon the Lankan government to advise its navy to abstain from “acts of illegal abduction of innocent Indian fishermen.”

Fishermen arrive in Tuticorin

Meanwhile, fifteen fishermen from Ramanathapuram district, who were detained by the Sri Lankan Navy on a charge of illegal cross-border fishing, arrived at Tuticorin port here on Sunday following their release. The Lankan Navy had apprehended them on January 2 and had also seized their three mechanised fishing boats.

Speaking to The Hindu, Commandant S.E.D. Anand Kumar of Indian Coast Guard, Tuticorin Station, said based on the directive of the Ministry of Defence and Home Affairs, the release was facilitated. Earlier, the Sri Lankan High Commission had given its nod for the repatriation and the Tamil Nadu government was informed about this development.

Indian Coast Guard Ship ‘Naikidevi’ was involved in the operation. The ICG personnel received the fishermen along the International Maritime Boundary Line at 4.45pm on Saturday and they arrived at Tuticorin port at around 7.15am on Sunday.

The fishermen were then handed over to M. Karthikeyan, Deputy Director of Fisheries, Ramanathapuram, in the presence of K.A. Jayapal, State Minister for Fisheries, and M. Ravikumar, Tuticorin Collector, the Commandant said.

Mr. Jayapal, later accompanied by Tourism Minister S.P. Shanmuganathan, gave away bags containing food materials, water bottles and clothes to each of the freed fishermen. Seeni Noor Mohammed, one of the fishermen from Mandapam, sought the intervention of the government to get back the fishing boats seized by the Sri Lankan authorities.

Among those released, eight fishermen hail from Mandapam, three from Pamban, two from Uchchipuli and one each from Thangatchimadam and Muthupettai, officials of the Department of Fisheries said.