Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Sunday requested Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to facilitate a dialogue between fishermen associations in the state and Sri Lanka in Chennai in December following frequent attacks and arrests of fishermen by naval personnel of the island nation.
"I am writing to you in the context of a proposal to facilitate a dialogue between fishermen associations in Tamil Nadu and their counterparts in Sri Lanka with a view to discuss ways and means to avoid instances of attacks on and arrests of fishermen, particularly from Tamil Nadu", she said in a letter to Singh.
She said the associations have represented to government to facilitate such talks and requested her to fix the venue and time for it, following which she proposed arrangements may be made to have the next round of talks here in December.
"Even as I am writing this letter to you, information has reached me that the Sri Lankan Navy has on September 19, apprehended 19 fishermen from Tamil Nadu along with five mechanised boats", she said.
Noting that Lankan navy "continues to act with impunity" despite two round of talks between the associations in 2011, she said it was disappointing that the External Affairs Ministry and Coast Guard "continue to be in denial and also indirectly endorsed the line taken by the Lankan government."
"They have taken an inexplicably tolerant stand of the excesses of the Sri Lankan Navy against Indian fishermen and seem to view the attacks on Tamil Nadu fishermen, who are pursuing their livelihood in the Palk Bay in their traditional fishing waters", Jayalalithaa said.
The talks, she said, should focus on commitments made in previous discussions to thoroughly "abjure" from violent attacks on the fishermen and to desist (Sri Lankan Navy) from "unfriendly" acts on them like abduction, detention and long periods of incarceration in Sri Lankan jails, she said.
The Chief Minister said the talks should also lay emphasis on "reiterating the traditional rights of Tamil Nadu fishermen to fish in their traditional fishing waters, irrespective of artificially drawn boundaries and ways and means to speedily and smoothly facilitate repatriation of Indian fishermen abducted by the Sri Lankan Navy".
The resolution passed in these talks would be subject to state government clearance and, therefore, without prejudice to the case pending in the Supreme Court and in keeping with the requests of Tamil Nadu fishermen, "I am of the view that the fishermen level talks may be facilitated".
Jayalalithaa requested Singh to instruct the agencies concerned to accord necessary clearances for the meeting and to communicate to the state on the list of participants from Sri Lanka.
Noting there have been numerous and recurring attacks and arrests of fishermen in the past few years while fishing in their traditional Palk Bay area, she said the genesis of the entire problem "is the ill-advised decision of the Government of India to recognise the island of Katchatheevu as part of Sri Lanka under the Indo-Sri Lanka Agreement of 1974".
"This historic blunder of Government of India has spawned the problems faced by Indian fishermen in the Palk Bay which remain unresolved even today. As a consequence of this, the fishing rights in the traditional fishing waters of our Indian fishermen belonging to Tamil Nadu have been badly compromised", she said.
She observed that the normal livelihood of fishermen in Ramanathapuram, Pudukottai, Tiruvarur, Thanjavur and Nagapattinam districts have been "severely affected".
"The fishermen now venture out to sea at the mercy of the marauding Sri Lankan Navy and have become the victims of murderous attacks in the Palk Bay", she added.