“It is a blatant lie,” said an angry K Rajachandran, president of the Ambal Fishermen’s Cooperative Society, Karainagar, Jaffna district.
“Indian fishermen come within 2 to 3 kilometres of the shore here. And they come day after day in large numbers - 50 to 150 vessels at a time,” he told Express.
Rajachandran sneered at Tamil Nadu government’s contention that the retrieval of Katchchativu island by India from Sri Lanka would put an end to the controversies over fishing in the Palk Strait. “If Kachchativu becomes the border, our problems will only increase. Kachchativu will then become the baseline for Indian fishermen and they will start coming even closer to our shores,” he said.
The Karainagar fishermen argue that even with Kachchativu in Indian hands, TN fishermen will still fish in Lankan waters, because it is here that the catch is there.
Not Against Sharing
The Jaffna fishermen say that they have no objection to Indians fishing in Lankan waters, provided they use similar fishing methods, and avoid trawling and other harmful techniques.
“Trawlers not only destroy marine life, but tear our nets. TN fishermen’s leader Arulanandam had promised to arrange for compensation. So, we have collected 18 nets and plan to show them to him,” said K Kamalathasan, one of the affected fishermen. The way the Indians laid their nets tended to damage the motors of the small craft used by their Lankan counterparts, pointed out V Krishnasamy.
Victims of War
Jaffna fisherfolk recall that during the 30-year war they had not been fishing because of security restrictions. They lament that TN fishermen and the TN and Indian governments are insensitive to their plight, their desperate need for a livelihood. “The TN fishermen insist on having their way. They say, you fish when we are not here! However, an agreement was arrived at between the fishermen and it was to be endorsed by the two governments. But sadly, the Indian government did not accept it for political reasons,” Rajachandran said.