Fishermen hold anti-India protest in Sri Lanka

Demonstrators carrying placards and chanting slogans opposite the Indian Consulate General office in Jaffna, 390 km north of the capital, demanded that the fishing rights of Sri Lankan fishermen be protected.

"We are trying to get on with our normal life after the end of a 30-year war and the Indian fishermen are not allowing us to do that," Velautham Marimuttu, a protesting fisherman, said by telephone.

"Protect our fishing rights", "India - keep your fishermen away from Sri Lanka", and "Protect our livelihood" were among the slogans the fishermen chanted.

Local fishermen arrested at least 136 of their Indian counterparts for allegedly violating Sri Lankan territorial waters and handed them over to the local police last week.

They appeared in court and were remanded in custody for two weeks, but political and diplomatic pressure led to their release Friday.

At the height of the conflict with Tamil rebels Sri Lankan security forces banned locals from fishing because the insurgents often mingled with fishermen to carry out attacks on the navy.

Since the end of the conflict in May 2009, the navy has gradually allowed locals to resume fishing.

Indian authorities accused the Sri Lankan navy of shooting at their fishermen and killing at least two of them last month. The incidents prompted Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao to visit Colombo for talks on the issue.

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