Chennai: Tamil Nadu government Thursday made yet another pitch with the Centre for taking back Katchatheevu island with Chief Minister O Panneerselvam charging Sri Lanka with "deviously hardening" its "harsh" approach of not releasing boats of arrested Indian fishermen.
Panneerselvam told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that his predecessor and former Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had earlier taken up with him the issue of Sri Lanka "pursuing a devious and sinister strategy of not releasing the apprehended fishing boats in successive incidents."
The Indian fishermen from the state were "harassed and arrested while pursuing their peaceful avocation of fishing in their traditional fishing waters in the Palk Bay," he said in a letter to the Prime Minister.
The state government reiterates its firm commitment to the restoration of traditional fishing rights of "our fishermen in Palk Bay and the retrieval of Katchatheevu which had been an integral part of India since time immemorial".
The Centre should also not treat the International Maritime Boundary Line with Lanka as a settled issue, he said.
Panneerselvam said the constitutionality of the 1974 and 1976 agreements, ceding the islet to Lanka had been challenged, on "extremely valid and legal grounds" by the state government and Jayalalithaa in the Supreme Court.
At present, 75 boats belonging to fishermen from the state, apprehended by Lankan Navy, continued to 'languish' there.
"The Sri Lankan side has deliberately and deviously hardened their stance and adopted this harsh approach of not releasing boats," he said.
Fishermen associations had complained that non-release of boats affected their livelihood, especially with north-east monsoon around the corner. With the monsoon due to hit Lankan and Tamil Nadu coasts soon, the impounded boats, berthed in the open and exposed to the elements, are likely to suffer irretrievable damage if they are not released at once.
"Being deprived of their boats which are their essential means of earning livelihood has led to considerable loss of income and reduced many fishermen families to a stage of penury, poverty and to a state of utter despondency," he said and urged Modi to intervene and ensure the release of the 75 boats in Lankan custody.