The South Asian Fishermen Fraternity, a fishermen rights association in Kanyakumari district has urged the Centre and the Tamil Nadu government to release six Sri Lankan fishermen who were arrested on November 16 last year for trespassing into Indian waters. These fishermen are lodged in Puzhal Central Prison.
The six fishermen unintentionally strayed into Indian waters and the governments should release them on compassionate grounds, the association stated in a petition it submitted to the Kanyakumari district administration.
On Nov 25, the Indian Coast Guard brought to shore 10 Indian fishermen and six Sri Lankan fishermen and their crafts allegedly caught in a smuggling bid. The Indian fishing boat was transporting 2.8 tonne of beedi leaves to Sri Lanka where the leaves fetched high prices. However, the investigation by customs and coastal security group revealed that the Sri Lankans were in the wrong place, in the Indian territorial waters, while the operation took place and they did not have any role in this smuggling.
The first information report filed at the Tharuvaikulam coastal security group station states that the Sri Lankan fishermen accidently strayed into Indian waters and their crafts did not contain any beedi leaves. So, they were booked on charges of trespassing into Indian waters and were lodged in prison.
The Sri Lankan fishers were booked under Section 3/10 of Maritime Zones of India [Regulation of Fishing by Foreign Vessels] Act, 1981. The investigation authorities reported that the six Sri Lankan fishermen had unintentionally strayed into Indian territory without knowing/reading the GPS markings, said Fr Churchil of South Asian Fishermen Fraternity.
‘These fishermen are poor and sole bread winners of their families. Just like we demand the release of our fishermen straying into their boundary, we need to release the Sri Lankan fishermen who stray into our waters unintentionally,” he said.
The association has also sent the petition to the ministry of external affairs pleading the case of the Sri Lankan fishermen.
Times of India