Indian fishermen want boats returned

Monday, 20 January 2014 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Several fishermen, who were released from the Sri Lankan prisons recently, attempted to immolate themselves at an Indian district collectorate premises on Saturday, while demanding the State Government to persuade Sri Lanka to release their mechanised boats. Nearly 150 fishermen from Akkarapettai village and nearby areas in Nagapattinam started pouring kerosene on themselves after they assembled in front of the district collector’s office. Police acted swiftly and prevented them from setting themselves on fire. However, six of the kerosene-drenched protesters who experienced burning sensations were rushed to hospital. The protesters also blocked collector T. Munusamy’s car while raising slogans demanding boats. At least 200 boats belonging to Nagapattinam fishermen are being held by the Sri Lankan authorities. They were seized by the Sri Lankan Navy when the fishermen were arrested on different occasions. Though several fishermen from the district have been released, their mechanised boats still remain in Lankan custody, said G. Manoharan, leader of the Akkaraipettai Fishermen Association. The status of the detained boats is not yet known, though both India and Sri Lanka have been releasing imprisoned fishermen ahead of the proposed talks to defuse problems faced by fishermen at sea. Several fishermen families have taken loans by pledging their boats, Manoharan said. One of the protesters, who did not wish to be named, criticised the State Government for not insisting on the release of boats while both countries worked out modalities for the release of arrested fishermen. Tamil Nadu Minister for Fisheries K.A. Jaypal, who was called to pacify the agitating fishermen, asked them to wait for another three days so that a solution could be arrived at after consulting with the Lankan authorities. However, the fishermen were not satisfied with the reply and threatened to go an indefinite strike until their demand was met. (TNN)