Centre`s stand on Katchatheevu shocking: Jayalalithaa

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa Wednesday said she was appalled at the Centre`s stand that Indian fishermen had no traditional fishing rights around Katchatheevu island.

Chennai:Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa Wednesday said she was appalled at the Centre`s stand that Indian fishermen had no traditional fishing rights around Katchatheevu island.

In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the text of which was released to the media here, she urged him to review the matter.

She said a counter-affidavit filed on behalf of the external affairs ministry before the Madras High Court "comes as a rude shock".

"I request you to kindly have the matter reviewed and direct the concerned officials to file an appropriately revised affidavit in the court which adequately reflects our concerns, without further delay," she wrote.

Jayalalithaa said the external affairs ministry, in its counter affidavit in the case filed by the Fisherman Care of Pallavaram, has indicated that the maritime boundary between India and Sri Lanka was a settled matter.

"The counter-affidavit further indicates that Indian fishermen have no traditional fishing rights in the area around Katchatheevu island.

"It appears that the counsel representing the ministry of external affairs have also orally reiterated the same stand before the first bench of the Madras High Court," she said.

Jayalalithaa said it has always been her government`s stand that the 285-acre Katchatheevu islet in the Palk Strait is an integral part of India.

"It was originally under the ownership of the Raja of Ramanathapuram for which there is sufficient documentary proof. The Indian fishermen enjoyed traditional fishing rights in and around the island of Katchatheevu and the Palk Bay," she said.

She said that as per agreements entered into by the government of India in 1974 and 1976, Katchatheevu was ceded to Sri Lanka and the fishermen of Tamil Nadu have been deprived of their fishing rights around Katchatheevu and the Palk Bay ever since then.

Jayalalithaa said she has filed a case in the Supreme Court against the transfer in 2008 in which the state government`s revenue department also impleaded itself in 2011.

"As per the order of the Supreme Court in the Berubari case of 1960, a part of any territory owned by India can be ceded to another country only through a constitutional amendment.

"However, Katchatheevu was ceded to Sri Lanka without a constitutional amendment and hence the ceding is unlawful and not valid," the chief minister said.

"The unconstitutional ceding of the island and the fishing grounds in the vicinity have emboldened the Sri Lankan Navy to resort to frequent attacks on our innocent fishermen who fish in their traditional fishing grounds."

Stressing that the question of sovereignty over Katchatheevu should not be treated as a settled issue, Jayalalithaa pointed to former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee`s statement in 1974 as the Jan Sangh head that he would file a case against ceding of the islet.

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