Local fishermen in Rameshwaram launched an indefinite strike and observed a day’s fast on Saturday, protesting against the repeated arrest by the Sri Lankan Navy, and seeking release of 87 fishermen with their 39 trawlers, The Hindu newspaper reported.
Facing threat to their livelihood after the Sri Lankan Navy stepped up the offensive, the fishermen anchored about 750 trawlers at the fishing jetty and stayed away from the sea, while a group with family members of arrested fishermen observed a fast at Thangachimadam.
Fishing had become increasingly risky as were seven instances of arrest of fishermen and confiscation of their boats by the Lankan Navy in a span of three weeks in September-October, P. Sesu Raja, a fishermen leader said.
Pointing out that the remand period of some of the fishermen lodged in Vavuniya prison ended on October 28, he said if they were not released by then with their boats, fishermen in the district would stage a State-wide agitation jointly with fishermen in Tuticorin, Nagapattinam, Pudukottai and Karaikal.
The Lankan Navy not only arrested the fishermen on charges of poaching, but also destroyed their nets and boats, causing a huge loss to boat owners, he said. Naval personnel used water scooters to attack, intimidate and chase the fishermen away, he charged.
“The fishermen were forced to borrow money to make both ends meet,” he said, urging the Centre to find a lasting solution, which was acceptable to both Indian and Sri Lankan Tamil fishermen.
Expressing solidarity with the fishing community, Tamil Maanila Congress district president A Ravichandra Ramavanni said the Lankan Navy became emboldened to attack the Indian fishermen and confiscate their boats only after the BJP came to power at the Centre.
Swami Pravananda of Vivekananda Mutt, who had been championing the cause of fishermen for more than three decades urged the State and Central governments to accord top priority to the fishermen issue.