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Fishermen all set to resume operations

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TO START again: Fishing boats anchored at Rameswaram jetty on Sunday.
TO START again: Fishing boats anchored at Rameswaram jetty on Sunday.

C. Jaishankar

They look forward to peaceful fishing as the guns fall silent in Sri Lanka

RAMANATHAPURAM: Fishermen are all set to resume their operations this week, ending the 45-day annual ban. With the defeat of the LTTE, as claimed by Sri Lanka, the fishermen are hopeful of “peaceful fishing.”

The killing of Tamil Nadu fishermen allegedly by Sri Lankan Navy had been one of the most contentious issues ever since 1983.

According to official records, there was no boundary between India and Sri Lanka till 1974. It was in 1974, the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) was demarcated through an agreement between the two countries, and the Katchatheevu was ceded to Sri Lanka.

Though fishermen from the two countries crossed each other’s waters even after the agreement was signed, the real problem started only after the Tamils’ unrest began in Sri Lanka in 1983.

The fishermen had been targeted all along allegedly by the Sri Lankan Navy on suspicion that some of them carried raw materials to the LTTE for making weapons. “The new season should be a dawn of hope for us as guns have fallen silent in the island nation after a struggle of around 25 years,” say some fishermen.

“It is a wonderful opportunity for India and Sri Lanka to solve the long-pending vexatious issue. The Central government must ensure that no fisherman loses his life after the post-war scenario,” said U. Arulanandam, Tamil Nadu’s representative for Alliance for the Release of Innocent Fishermen (AIRF), an NGO.

According to the NGO, the first incident of firing at Tamil Nadu fishermen occurred on August 13 1983, in which five fishermen were injured. Muniasamy of Nagatchi was the first fisherman to be killed for crossing the border on December 10 1983.

Since then, around 325 fishermen had lost their lives and 35 were reported missing. There is no information on 136 missing boats, a majority of them mechanised vessels.

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