The Sri Lankan Navy arrested 25 fishermen, seized their six trawlers and damaged a boat in the early hours of Tuesday.
The incident threatens to derail the talks between fishermen of Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka, scheduled for January 27 in Chennai. The arrested fishermen included 17 Rameswaram fishermen (in four boats) and eight Mandapam fishermen (in two boats). The Navy has taken the fishermen to Kankesanthurai, the harbour town of Jaffna district in northern Sri Lanka, sources here said.
While rounding off the fishermen, a Navy boat hit a fishing trawler, damaging the front portion. Four fishermen in the boat were detained but allowed to sail back. Arokiadoss (26), the boat owner, who was fishing with three other fishermen, said the Navy had let them go after water started getting into the boat. “We were fishing off Kachchativu when the Navy in five or six vessels surrounded us and dashed against our boat,” he claimed.
The Navy took away about 20 kg of prawns and mobile phones, he alleged.
“The arrest of the fishermen ahead of the meeting is extremely distressing,” said U.Arulanandham, president of the Alliance for the Release of the Innocent Fishermen.
However, Sri Lankan Navy spokesman Commander Kosala Warnakulasuriya told The Hindu Indian fishermen were detained for alleged illegal fishing activity. “On Tuesday, the Indian trawlers were in our territorial waters and we were forced to arrest them.”
Fishermen from northern Sri Lanka, addressing the media in Colombo, on the sidelines of a conference on resolution of the Palk Bay conflict, urged the Indian government to take steps to stop its fishermen from engaging in bottom trawling.