The Sri Lankan navy on Sunday arrested 27 Indian fishermen and seized five of their boats for allegedly trespassing into their waters. The fishermen, residents of Tamil Nadu’s Ramanathapuram, were fishing in Sri Lankan waters off Mannar and near the Delft and Kachchativu Islands in Jaffna.
Fishermen in Ramanathapuram have now declared an indefinite strike, effectively halting the operation of around 7,000 fishermen. Protesting fishermen also plan to stage a demonstration on Wednesday, emphasizing the urgency of their demands.
Meanwhile, Union Minister of State for Fisheries L Murugan assured a diplomatic solution to the crisis and appealed to the fishermen to end their strike. He also asked the fishermen to recognize the direct impact the strike would have on the lives of approximately 15,000 people in the region.
More than 600 Indian fishermen have been killed by the Sri Lankan navy for allegedly trespassing over the last few decades. Though killing has almost stopped over the last few years, Sri Lanka has stopped returning seized boats, crippling the livelihood of fishermen.
The Sri Lanka Navy has seized 22 boats and arrested 137 Indian fishermen so far in 2023.
It is said that the fishermen venture into the Lankan waters due to a smaller number of fish in the Indian waters.
Tamil Nadu has mooted two solutions to the issue. One is to retrieve the Katchatheevu island which India gifted to Sri Lanka in the 70s as they say this will increase the catchment area for fishermen and change the international boundary line as well.
The state has also suggested the idea of a long-term lease agreement with Sri Lanka to pave the way for legal fishing rights for Indian fishermen.