Chennai/Rameswaram, Mar 3: As eight more Tamil Nadu fishermen were arrested on Thursday by the Sri Lankan Navy, the state government sought the Centre's intervention for the release of all 35 Indian fishermen and 73 fishing boats in the custody of the neighbouring island republic.
Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa wrote a letter to Prime Miniter Narendra Modi, calling for appropriate actions for a permanent solution to the recurring arrests.
"There is an urgent and imperative need to proactively initiate appropriate actions to deliver a permanent solution to this sensitive issue that plagues the livelihoods of thousands of Tamil Nadu fishermen," she said in the letter.
A report from Rameswaram said the eight fishermen were arrested and their two boats seized by the Sri Lankan Navy on charges of crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line.
Referring to their arrest, Jayalalithaa said "our fishermen are only following their traditional occupation and fishing in an area to which they have a historic claim -- their traditional fishing waters of the Palk Bay.
The very ownership of these waters and the position of the IMBL are matters which are in the Supreme Court," she said about the case filed by her challenging the validity of the Indo-Sri Lankan agreements of 1974 and 1976 which ceded Katchatheevu to the island nation.
Our fishermen are only following their traditional occupation: Jaya
The Sri Lankan strategy of not releasing the apprehended boats and fishing gear even after releasing the fishermen has severely impaired the means of livelihood of several of their families, "causing great frustration and despondency amongst the fisherfolk of Tamil Nadu", she said.
The prolonged detention and disuse of the boats even through the Northeast monsoon would have caused extensive and irretrievable damage, she said and reiterated her request that the fishing boats and gear be restored in a refurbished condition by the Government of India at the earliest.
The Chief Minister, who reminded Modi of her demand for a Rs 1,520 crore deep-sea fishing package for her state, sought his direction to officials of the Ministry of External Affairs to press for the release of 35 fishermen, including the eight apprehended this week, and 73 fishing boats from Lankan custody.