Tamil Nadu asks India to take back Katchatheevu

Chennai, May 3 (IANS) The Tamil Nadu assembly Friday urged India to take back Katchatheevu, an island ceded to Sri Lanka in 1974, to protect Indian fishermen from attacks by the Sri Lankan navy.

The assembly passed a resolution describing the ceding of the island as illegal and said this was affecting the livelihood of the state’s fishermen.

Moving the resolution, Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa said there are historical records to prove that till India’s independence in 1947, Katchatheevu was part of the Ramanathapuram kingdom.

After independence, the islet was annexed to India.

The island hosts a Catholic church dedicated to St. Antony, the patron saint of fishermen. It was built by Seenikuppan Padayachi of Rameswaram in the early 20th century, she said.

Till 1974, when India and Sri Lanka signed a pact to transfer Katchatheevu, Indian fishermen used to fish in the Palk Straits and near the islet. They used Katchatheevu to dry their nets and take rest.

Though the 1974 pact provided for the traditional fishing rights of Indian fishermen, the Sri Lankan government does not allow that any more.

Many a time Indian fishermen have been attacked, arrested and shot dead by the Sri Lankan navy now.

In order to find a permanent solution for the livelihood problem of Indian fishermen, India should get back Katchateevu and surrounding places from Sri Lanka, Jayalalithaa said.

Later, replying to a debate on the resolution, Jayalalithaa said the 1974 agreement had been violated from the start and Indian fishermen bore the brunt of the Sri Lankan navy’s actions.

Jayalalithaa said she had filed a case in the apex court to declare the ceding of Katchatheevu as void in 2008. In 2011, the state’s revenue department was made a party to the case.

Jayalalithaa said five Indian fishermen were in a Sri Lankan jail for more than a year, and a total of 30 fishermen have not been released from jail in the island nation.

Katchatheevu island is located in the narrow sea dividing the two countries. The sea near the islet is rich in marine life, leading to frequent clashes between Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen.

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