On February 3, 2024, the Sri Lankan Navy arrested 23 fishermen belonging to Rameswaram and Thangachimadam and impounded two of their mechanised boats at a point near Nedeuntheevu on the grounds of poaching. Protesting the latest arrests, fishermen associations in Ramanthapuram have called for a boycott of the upcoming Lok Sabha Elections. The associations also resolved to persuade their members against casting votes in the polling stations in their habitations.
According to the information available, the Sri Lankan authorities have taken the 23 fishermen to Mylitit Port. They are likely to be produced in a court. Following this, the fishermen associations in coastal district convened an urgent meeting. According to fisheries department officials, 492 tokens were issued on February 3, 2024, from Rameswaram jetty. The boats belonged to J. Sahayaraj and A. James in which 23 fishermen were engaged fishing were held by the Sri Lankan Navy Personnel on February 3, 2024. Subsequently, the they were taken to the port for inquiry.
Meanwhile fishermen leader Jesu Raja told an Indian media agency on February 3, 2024, that in the recent past arresting the fishermen along the Palk Bay Waters by the Sri Lanakan Navy has become a regular feature or regular affair. Just before the visit of PM Narendra Modi to the temples in the district on January 21, 2024 about ten fishermen were arrested on January 18, 2023. However, they were let off in two days due to the presence of PM Modi in the district, he said.
Apprehending Indian Fishermen
From 2018 to 2024 till date, the Sri Lankan Navy personnel had impounded 150 boats. Due to the intervention of the Union Government, the Sri Lankan Authorities had released the arrested fishermen, but did not return the boats. According to Jesu Raja, the cost of each boat is around Rs 25 lakhs to one crore.
By detaining the boats, the livelihood of fishermen has been affected. “We do not have any alternative to settle the mounting debts,” he said and urged the Union Government to immediately intervene at the highest level and help them in recovering their boats.
An urgent meeting convened in Thangachimadam resolved to appeal to the Union Government to safely secure the release of the 23 fishermen from Sri Lanka. The meeting passed a resolution to get the impounded 150 mechanised boats lying in Sri Lankan ports without any delay as it would rescue the fishermen from debts. In the case of failure to look into the demands of the fishermen, the fisherfolks would boycott the Lok Sabha elections and would not allow any of their members to cast votes in the polling stations in their habitations, they resolved.