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Rameswaram fishermen to go on indefinite strike

Special Correspondent
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They are protesting the arrest of 30 fishermen by the Lankan Navy

Moored in despair:Boats anchored in Rameswaram.— Photo: L. Balachandar
Moored in despair:Boats anchored in Rameswaram.— Photo: L. Balachandar

The Rameswaram fishermen have decided to launch an indefinite strike and lay siege to the Pamban Road bridge, protesting against the arrest of 30 more fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy on Saturday night.

Even as the fishermen were fighting for the release of 19 fishermen, imprisoned in a Lankan prison after they were arrested on March 13, the Lankan Navy had detained 30 fishermen and seized their five trawlers for allegedly fishing in Sri Lankan waters. Protesting against the arrest, leaders of 12 Fishermen Associations, led by Mr. N. J. Bose, president of the Rameswaram Port Mechanised Boats Fishermen Association met at Rameswaram on Sunday and decided to abstain from fishing and to lay siege to the Pamban Road bridge on April 12.

“We have couple of fishing days before the 45-day ban on fishing comes into force on April 15 and we will not go for fishing till all the arrested fishermen are released,” Mr Bose said. The fishermen resumed fishing only on March 1, after ending their more than fortnight long strike.

He said the Lankan Navy had arrested as many as 75 fishermen during the past three weeks. After arresting 53 fishermen on March 13 and 14, the Lankan authorities have released 34 fishermen, while remanding 19 fishermen in judicial custody. “Now, the Lankan Navy had arrested 56 fishermen-26 from Karaikal on Friday and 30 from Rameswaram on Saturday,” he said.

Five other fishermen were languishing in Sri Lankan jail for more than a year after they were arrested on false charges, he said. “We are not appealing to the governments as we have lost faith with both the State and the Centre,” he said.

Describing the arrest of fishermen as inhuman, Mr U.Arulanandham, president of the Alliance for Release of Innocent Fishermen (ARIF) said the Lankan Navy could have averted the arrest on humanitarian grounds as the hapless fishermen had only couple of fishing days left, before the 45-day ban comes into force. The arrest and subsequent remand were totally needless, he said adding, “it looked they (the Lankan Navy) are doing it with a vengeance and it is most unfortunate that the Indian government is maintaining a stoic silence on this issue.”

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