Indians want fishermen freed

Indian fishermen have demanded the release of their colleagues who were arrested by the Sri Lankan navy on Saturday.

Fishermen expressed shock and surprise over the arrest as it comes when their leaders were holding talks with Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, who was in Delhi, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, the Hindu newspaper reported.

“It is extremely painful that the Lankan Navy has arrested 21 more and seized their five boats, when we are holding talks with the Lankan Minister here,” said Mr P. Sesu Raja, district secretary, Tamil Nadu Coastal Mechanised Boat Fishermen Association, who was part of the five member delegation, which met Minister Rajapaksa.

“We have sent fax messages to the Sri Lankan authorities to release the fishermen immediately,” he said over phone from Delhi.

N.J. Bose, president of the Rameswaram Port Mechanised Boats Fishermen Association said it was high time the State government prevailed upon the Centre to take up the issue with the Lankan government and find a solution.

Sources in the Indian Coast Guard and Fisheries Department said the fishermen arrested on Saturday were fishing off Katchatheevu. The arrested fishermen included 13 from Mandapam in three boats and 8 from Rameswaram in two boats, the sources said.

This was the fourth arrest in the new fishing season, which began on June 1 after the end of 45-day ban period. The Lankan navy had arrested the first batch of 24 fishermen on June 5 and the second batch of 25 fishermen, the very next day.

The Indian fisheries department had issued fishing permits to 734 boats on Saturday, sources said adding all but five boats returned to the shore on Sunday.

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