Activists call on India, Pak to release 632 fishermen

Urge goodwill gesture ahead of 75th Independence Day celebrations

August 09, 2021 08:58 pm | Updated 08:58 pm IST - AHMEDABAD

Peace activists and fishermen have appealed to India and Pakistan to release 632 fishermen, lodged in jails across both countries, as a goodwill gesture and humanitarian step in the run up to their 75th Independence Day celebrations.

Of the 632 fishermen, 558 are Indian fishermen lodged in Pakistani jails and 74 are Pakistani fishermen lodged in various jails in India. Most of the Indian fishermen are from Gujarat and Union Territory of Daman and Diu.

Indian fishermen are routinely caught by Pakistan’s Marine Security Agency when fishing along the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).

“The pandemic has turned the situation dire for the incarcerated fishermen, women and aged prisoners, and both the governments are in a position to stop the suffering of these individuals and their families. In almost all cases, arrested fishermen cross the maritime border inadvertently and should not be treated as criminals by the other country,” said Jatin Desai, wellknown activist working for fishermen’s welfare.

Mr. Desai and other activists have also asked the governments of both countries to allow a team of medical experts from either side to visit and check upon the incarcerated fishermen.

They have also demanded the immediate revival of the Judicial Committee on Prisoners, consisting of four retired judges of the higher judiciary from each country. The last meeting of the Committee was held in October 2013 in India.

The Agreement on Consular Access, 2008, says, “Each government shall provide consular access within three months to nationals of one country, under arrest, detention or imprisonment in the other country.” However, according to the activists, most often, this is not followed.

“There are social effects of the arrests also. The families of the arrested fishermen suffer, livelihoods are disrupted and their children’s education takes a hit. The situation also causes mental health issues with no one in the families aware of when their near and dear ones will get released and repatriated. A few have even died while in prison in the other country,” Mr Desai said, adding that fishermen live in pitiable conditions when they are arrested and imprisoned.

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