Sirisena at helm brings hopes to Rameswaram fishermen

Over 500 fishermen held in 28 incidents in fishing season from June last year

February 07, 2015 12:00 am | Updated 08:10 am IST - RAMESWARAM:

The change of regime in Sri Lanka has brought cheers to the Rameswaram fishermen as they could enjoy a hassle free fishing in the Palk Bay ever since Maithripala Sirisena assumed office as President in early January.

There has not been a single incident of Lankan navy disturbing the Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu when they set out for fishing in the Palk Bay, but the fishermen remained sceptical.

“The Lankan navy seems to be friendly but we cannot expect it to be friendly on all days,” A Irudhayaraj (44) who had been fishing in the Bay for about two decades here says. The fishermen certainly looked forward for a permanent solution to the vexatious dispute over fishing in the Palk Bay.

For Tamil Nadu fishermen, fishing in the Palk Bay had turned a nightmare ever since the Sea Tigers, the Naval wing of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) had vanished after the Lankan forces defeated the militant group in 2009.

In the last two years, there had been multiple incidents of Lankan navy arresting fishermen on charges of poaching into the Lankan waters and the arrests continued unabated despite repeated protests by the Tamil Nadu government.

More than 500 fishermen were arrested in as many as 28 incidents in the new fishing season from June last year alone.

“There is a sense of relief among the fishermen now but we cannot take things for granted,” a fishermen leader said, preferring anonymity.

Every time the fishermen ventured into the sea, the leaders advised them to exercise restraint and avoid sailing much into the Lankan waters.

The fishermen were aware that they were not out of the difficult times and wanted both the Indian and Sri Lankan governments to hold talks and find a sustainable solution to the conflict.

The fishermen leaders were also hoping for their talks to resume with their counterparts in Tamil areas and an agreement reached for peaceful fishing in the Palk Bay. After the second round of talks in Colombo in May reached a deadlock, there has been no progress.

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