Rameswaram fishermen upset as Sri Lankan court jails one fisherman even as 18 are freed

They demand Central govt’s intervention; to observe relay fast from Saturday

Published - February 23, 2024 02:04 am IST - Chennai

Fishermen taking part in a meeting held at Thangachimadam near Rameswaram on Thursday.

Fishermen taking part in a meeting held at Thangachimadam near Rameswaram on Thursday. | Photo Credit: BALACHANDAR L

The Rameswaram fishermen have appealed to the Union government to immediately intervene with the Sri Lankan government and bring home the jailed fishermen in the island nation, here on Thursday.

When the fishermen had announced indefinite boycott of their work since February 17 condemning the arrests by Sri Lankan Navy personnel on ‘false’ charges of poaching, the new move of sentencing the fishermen (boat drivers) and those who repeatedly committed the offence for six months and one year in jails by the Sri Lankan courts had come as a shock to the fisherfolk.

On February 2, in two different incidents, 42 fishermen (23 and 19) were arrested and four of their mechanised trawlers were impounded by the Sri Lankan Navy personnel near Neduntheevu islet. They were produced before a court, which remanded them in judicial custody for 15 days.

When the case came up for hearing in the first incident, the court released 20 fishermen and ordered three others (two boatmen and a fisherman) to undergo six months jail each and one year jail for repeating the offence. As the news reached the coastal district here, the fishermen associations were shocked and immediately announced to stay away from the sea for a day.

Under such circumstances, when the case came up for hearing in the second incident, the court ordered release of 18 fishermen with a warning that they would be jailed next time, if they were found poaching and directed the boatman to undergo six month jail.

The news from the island nation sent shock waves among the fisherfolks as they described the imprisonment as not only harsh but also an heightened attack against them. “The decision to jail our men is a big blow to us.This should stop,” P Jesu Raja, a fishermen leader said.

Opposing the sentences, the fishermen associations had announced indefinite boycott from Feb 17. They also decided not to participate in the annual two-day Katchatheevu festival from Feb 23 and 24. Above all, the fishermen announced that they would take out a march from Rameswaram to Ramanathapuram Collectorate to hand over their ID cards including Aadhaar and among other documents to the Collector.

Peace talks fail

When revenue, police and fisheries department officials held peace talks with the agitating fishermen, they took out a march on Feb 20 towards the district headquarters.

The Ramanathapuram District Collector B Vishnu Chandran intervened and stopped them assuring that he would take the issue with the government following which the fishermen suspended the march.

With the anti-fishermen attitude increasing day-by-day, the fishermen associations resolved to observe a relay fast from Saturday in Thangachimadam.

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