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Jaya wants India to regain Katchatheevu from Lanka

Chennai, May 3, 2013, DHNS: 1:47 IST

TN Assembly passes resolution 'to save lives of Indian fishermen'

Exerting pressure on the Centre yet again on the issue of ‘repeated indiscriminate attacks’ on Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan navy, the Tamil Nadu Assembly unanimously passed a resolution on Friday urging that the “government of India should take immediate steps to retrieve the Katchatheevu Island ceded in 1970 to Sri Lanka” to help resolve the crisis and save the lives of Indian fisher-folk.

Moving the resolution in the House, Chief Minister Jayalalitha said that considering the ‘brutal attacks and torture’ of fishermen from Tamil Nadu by the Sri Lankan Navy, the Island of Katchatheevu (off Rameshwaram) which was given away to the island-republic under an Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement (when the International maritime boundary line IMBL in the Palk Straits was drawn), should be brought back under GOI’s ‘sovereign territory and control.’

Even now, 35 fishermen from Tamil Nadu were held in Lankan jails. “Under these circumstances, the only way to protect the rights and lives of our fishermen is for India to retrieve Katchatheevu Island,” Jayalalitha said.

In the last two months, Indian fishermen had been subjected to “attacks, torture and humiliation seven times” by the Sri Lankan navy.

The resolution is both politically and diplomatically significant, as fishermen from Tamil Nadu, often not being able to discern the IMBL in rough sea waters, unwittingly cross over into purported Sri Lankan side, when they go for fishing near Katchatheevu. For centuries earlier, fishermen had ‘traditional fishing rights’ in the waters around Katchatheevu and could also dry their nets there, apart from going on an annual pilgrimage, which they now say have been totally denied to them after Katchatheevu was ceded to Sri Lanka. This has been the root cause of the frequent attacks on fishermen by the Sri Lankan navy.

Jayalalitha raised in the resolution, doubts about the legal validity of the Indo-Lanka Agreement on Katchatheevu in the backdrop of the Supreme Court’s earlier historic judgment with regard to the division of ‘Berubari Union’ in the 1960s’ (now in Bangladesh) then given to Pakistan, that such ‘Accords’ should be ratified by both Houses of Indian Parliament.

This did not happen in the Katchatheevu case, she indicated, adverting to a suit filed by the AIADMK led by her in the Supreme Court in 2008.

She said in June 2011 (after she was voted back as the chief minister for the third time), “we got a resolution passed in the Assembly to implead the state revenue department in the original petition before the Supreme Court (filed earlier by AIADMK), seeking to declare the Indo-Lanka Agreement on Katchatheevu as ‘null and void.’

Jayalalitha criticised DMK leader and former chief minister M Karunanidhi for having failed to ensure the interests of Tamil Nadu fishermen in this issue.

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