Sri Lanka arrests 55 Indian fishermen

Sri Lankan Navy seizes eight boats for ‘illegal fishing’ in the country’s territorial waters.

The Sri Lankan Navy on December 19 seized eight Indian fishing vessels and arrested 55 fishermen on the charge of poaching.

The Sri Lankan government agencies said a fast attack craft of the 4th Fast Attack Craft Flotilla attached to the Northern Naval Command took hold of six trawlers and arrested 43 fishermen, hailing from Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu, southeast of the Delft Island (Neduntheevu), Jaffna, in the early hours. The operation was in compliance with the COVID-19 protocol. Arrangements were being made to hand the fishermen over to the authorities concerned for legal action after rapid antigen tests, they said.

The agencies said the Navy conducts regular patrols to curb illegal fishing in Sri Lankan waters. During the day, the Navy arrested 12 fishermen from Mandapam and seized two trawlers. According to reports received by the fishermen in Rameswaram, the 12 fishermen were taken to a Sri Lankan naval camp. It was not clear whether they would be arrested or released with a warning, said a senior officer in the Fisheries Department in Chennai.

As the news spread in the coastal hamlets, representatives of fishermen associations met in the forenoon. “The Union and State governments should immediately intervene and protect all the fishermen and bring back the trawlers. Until then, the fishermen will not venture into the sea,” Jesu Raja, a fishermen leader, told The Hindu.

The representatives accused the Union government of having neglected the community.

The fishermen had not violated the maritime boundary as claimed by Sri Lanka. It had become routine for the Sri Lankan Navy to blame the Indian fishermen for trespass and arrest them by using force, Mr. Jesu Raja said.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin spoke to External Affairs Minister S. Jaisankar seeking his intervention to get the fishermen and the boats released.

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