Attacks on Indian fishermen by SL Navy shows PM Modi-led regime is 'weak,' says TN CM Stalin

Stalin's comment comes days after Modi said in Parliament that Stalin had been writing to him to retrieve Katchatheevu, while the island was given to Sri Lanka when Indira Gandhi was the PM

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. K. Stalin (photo: IANS)
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. K. Stalin (photo: IANS)


Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin on Friday said continued attacks on Indian fishermen by Sri Lankan Navy shows the Union government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is "weak.".

He asserted that getting Katchatheevu island back from the neighbouring country is the only solution to the vexatious issue.

Stalin's comment comes days after Modi said in Parliament that Stalin had been writing to him to retrieve Katchatheevu, while the island was given to Sri Lanka when Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister.

Addressing a fishermen's welfare conference at Rameswaram near here, the Chief Minister announced increase in financial assistance from Rs 5,000 to Rs 8,000 provided to fishermen during the annual fishing ban period.

He also made nine other announcements for their welfare including 'patta' for 5,035 fishermen under a housing scheme and cooperative fisheries loan for 45,000 fishers.

The Chief Minister said in April 2014 Modi had blamed weakness of the Congress government for the arrest and harassment of Tamil Nadu fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy. Also, the DMK chief, he said Modi had asserted that a strong government was needed at the Centre for the safety of fishermen and vowed to better the lives of fishermen.

"We would like to ask whether Tamil Nadu fishermen have not at all been attacked by Sri Lankan Navy during the 9-year BJP rule." Stalin said the attack on fishermen by Lanka continued through the nine-year BJP rule led by Modi.

Even now, when the Centre is extending all support to Lanka to help it tide over the economic crisis, the incidents of attack is on. Stalin said during a 3-year period itself, from 2020 till date, Lankan Navy had attacked Tamil Nadu fishermen 48 times and 619 fishermen had been arrested and 83 boats impounded. Lanka released 604 fishermen and 16 boats.

"When attacks on Tamil Nadu fishermen continues during Modi's regime, what does it mean? it means the government led by him is weak." Stalin alleged attacks by the Lankan Navy on fishermen from Tamil Nadu even increased after NDA assumed power in 2014 at the Centre. "Going beyond arrest, attack and imprisonment, Lanka taking away fishing boats worth lakhs of rupees has increased.".

Even if fishermen are released their boats are not, which are their source of livelihood together with fishing nets. "Breaking up boats and cutting fishing nets is the practice of Sri Lankan government." Even late BJP leader Sushma Swaraj had assured getting back Katchatheevu and finding a solution to fishermen issue. "Has this happened?".

"Denial of entry to Katchatheevu is denial of our fishermen's traditional fishing rights. Hence, the Indian government should start making efforts to cancel the pact with Sri Lankan government.".

If the BJP regime did not initiate action, "we will go forward with our political action plan to see that the new dispensation at the Centre fulfills this." The DMK chief vowed, "let us guard the fishing rights of Tamil Nadu fishermen by retrieving Katchatheevu." The conference condemned the harassment and attacks on Indian fishermen by the Sri Lankan navy.

After the BJP government led by Modi assumed power at the Centre, Sri Lanka nationalised as many as 122 boats confiscated from Tamil Nadu fishermen, the Chief Minister said.

"The arrests are continuing even now. They are refusing to give back the boats. Who should take responsibility for this? Only the BJP government.".

As and when the fishermen are targeted, Tamil Nadu takes it up with the Centre, which liaisons with Sri Lanka. However, attack and arrest is a continuing phenomenon. "There must be a full stop to this. To ensure a permanent full stop, Katchatheevu island should be retrieved. Only that can be the permanent solution to this problem.".

Ceding Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka, India concluded maritime boundary agreements in 1974 and 1976 with the neighbouring country.

Stalin, who is the ruling DMK president, said his father and late chief minister M Karunanidhi had released a report in December 1973 that Katchatheevu belongs to India. Still, a pact was entered between the two nations on June 26, 1974 and the DMK did not support it.

Karnanidhi met Indira Gandhi and presented irrefutable evidence to her demonstrating that the island belonged to India and objected giving it away to the neigbouring country. On June 26, 1974, an all party meet was held by Karunanidhi seeking cancellation of agreement with Sri Lanka. It was only the AIADMK that staged a walkout from that meeting. A special resolution was brought in the Assembly against it and public meetings were held across the state opposing the move.

In his reaction, Tamil Nadu BJP president K Annamalai condemned Stalin and said the Chief Minister does not have any locus standi to criticise Modi.

Annamalai demanded to know if the DMK has fulfilled at least one of its poll promises for the fishermen welfare.

One of the assurances made by the DMK was building 2 lakh houses for the fishermen community, he pointed out. On the other hand, the Prime Minister has been implementing several welfare schemes for the fishermen by setting up a separate ministry. For the benefit of Tamil Nadu fishermen, over Rs 2,820 crore has been allotted to the ministry.

During 2004-14, though part of the UPA-led Centre, the DMK did not halt the killings of fishermen and people would not now believe its 'crocodile tears.' 

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