Take back Kachchatheevu: Indian Parliamentarians

[TamilNet, Wednesday, 12 March 2008, 16:31 GMT]
In a rare display of unity and concern, members of the Rajya Sabha (Upper House of the Indian Parliament), cutting across party lines, urged the Centre to take back the Kachchatheevu island from Sri Lanka in the wake of continued killing and arrests of Indian fishermen by the Sri Lanka Navy. This is the first time when the demand to immediately take back the Kachchatheevu island has been made at the national level.

The issue of Indian fishermen being repeatedly attacked by the Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) was raised by Congress MP V. Narayanasamy during question hour. He said that Indian fishermen went to Kachchatheevu without knowledge of where the international maritime boundary existed, but the SLN fired and killed one fishermen, seriously injured another, and took 57 other fishermen into custody. After the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister wrote to the Centre, 47 of them were released.

Narayanasamy observed that this has become "a regular phenomenon" and called for the strengthening of the Indian Coast Guards who had to protect Tamil Nadu fishermen who were regularly taken into custody by the SLN. He also charged the SLN with ill-treating and beating up Tamil Nadu fishermen. He demanded that the Government of India should get back Kachatheevu from the Sri Lankan Government because fishermen from Rameshwaram, Kanyakumari and Tuticorin went fishing in that area apart from offering their prayers, drying their nets and cooking their food in that island.

He requested the Indian Prime Minister, the External Affairs Minister and the Defence Minister to ensure the safety of Indian fishermen fishing in Kachchatheevu and near Sri Lankan coastal waters. Noting that this was becoming a law and order problem in the coastal area, Narayanasamy said, "I want the Government of India to intervene in the matter and protect our Indian fishermen and show our strong protest to the Sri Lankan authorities for unnecessarily killing of our fisherman by the Sri Lankan Navy."

K. Malaisamy, AIADMK MP, traced the history of the island and said that it originally belonged to the Raja of Ramanathapuram in Tamil Nadu. "Either there should be a permanent deal for the Indian fishermen or the agreement should be annulled and the rights of the fishermen restored," he added.

Su. Thirunavukkarasu, MP from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, India's principal opposition party) pointed out that "people were dying there everyday" and urged the Central and State Governments "to take steps to get back Kachchatheevu, in the interest of the fishermen of Tamil Nadu." He also demanded the release of the remaining fishermen.

Another prominent supporter was MP Brinda Karat, politburo member of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the major ally of the ruling Congress. Subsequently the whole House of Elders unanimously associated itself with this issue and sought the Indian Central Government to take back the island of Kachchatheevu from Sri Lanka.


Chronology:


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