`Release fishermen imprisoned in Sri Lanka'

CHENNAI, JAN.12. The Tamil Nadu-Pondicherry Fishing Federation has demanded the immediate release of 89 fishermen who have been languishing in Sri Lankan jails for the last one year. It also called for the release of 68 mechanised boats seized.

Federation members said they would stage a rail roko along the Pamban Bridge in Ramanathapuram on January 20 if their demands were not met. They also threatened to boycott the coming parliamentary elections.

The livelihood of 10 lakh fishermen in Tamil Nadu has been threatened continuously since ethnic conflict broke out in 1983, said N.J. Bose, the Federation's general secretary, at a press meet. "We are scared to go out to sea. We don't know when we will be in harm's way."

Mr. Bose requested the Centre to draw up an agreement with Sri Lankan authorities on fishing rights in Indo-Lankan waters. He said fishermen of both nationalities could fish in the same waters without affecting each other's chances. "Until 1983, this happened without any problem. They catch fish in the upper layers of water using a gill net while we catch fish in the deep waters."

Around 30 representatives from the Federation held a discussion with M. Radhakrishnan, Fisheries Minister, on this issue.

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