Stalin advocates for Tamil fishermen’s rights

MK Stalin
M.K Stalin

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to leverage the imminent visit of Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe to safeguard the historical fishing rights of Indian fishermen.
Stalin underscored significant issues such as the return of Katchatheevu island and the respect of Tamil-speaking people’s aspirations in Sri Lanka, during Wickremesinghe’s two-day visit to India. Wickremesinghe’s visit, set for July 21 at the invitation of Prime Minister Modi, marks his first trip to India in his present role, as revealed by the External Affairs Ministry.
In a letter to Modi, Stalin emphasised the need to protect the social, political, cultural, and economic rights of Sri Lanka’s Tamils to enable them to live with dignity as equal citizens. He suggested that a meaningful devolution of powers to the provinces could fulfil the unresolved aspirations of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka.
Stalin reflected on the history of India relinquishing Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka nearly 50 years ago without the Tamil Nadu government’s approval. The Chief Minister insisted that this island had traditionally been an Indian territory, with Tamil Nadu’s fishermen frequenting the surrounding waters.
Stalin detailed the struggles Indian fishermen are currently facing, including limited access to traditional fishing areas, persistent harassment from the Sri Lankan Navy, and trespassing charges leading to arrests.
He called upon the Union government to re-evaluate the agreement on Katchatheevu’s transfer, encouraging efforts to reclaim the island to restore historical fishing rights and provide enduring relief to the fishermen. From 2020 to date, the Sri Lankan Navy has detained 619 Tamil Nadu fishermen and confiscated 83 fishing boats across 48 incidents. The Chief Minister elaborated on the impact these detentions have had on the fishermen’s livelihoods and their families.
Stalin also highlighted the harassment of Tamil fishermen by the Sri Lankan Navy, often involving the plundering of their gear and catch. He proposed solutions such as enhanced patrolling, communication channels, and warning systems to help alleviate this issue.
A focal point of Stalin’s concerns is Sri Lanka’s amendment of its Fisheries Act in 2018, which allows for the nationalisation of foreign fishing boats. The Chief Minister argued that this process, carried out without proper compensation, has thrust fishermen into financial hardships.
Stalin has called for a discussion on this issue with the visiting Sri Lankan president, urging for necessary amendments to withdraw the nationalisation legislation. He also suggested regular Indo-Lanka Joint Working Group meetings to foster trust and facilitate smooth fishing operations.
Concluding his appeal, Stalin expressed hope that Prime Minister Modi’s support and intervention would bring about a positive change for the fishermen and their families while addressing the genuine aspirations of the Tamil community in Sri Lanka.