The Palk Strait has been a scene of battle for fishermen from Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu for years. The conflict between the fishermen of both countries took a back seat when the war was at its peak eight years ago.
But over the years, the clashes between both groups of fishermen, and allegations against the local Navy attacking Tamil Nadu fisher folk has been on the increase.
A massive protest broke out in Tamil Nadu last week after the death of a 22-year-old fisherman on Monday night (6).
The Tamil Nadu fishermen alleged that the youth was killed by the Sri Lankan Navy.
Tamil Nadu up in arms against Centre
Tamil Nadu not only protested against Sri Lanka, but also against its own Central government for keeping mum over the issue that had cost several lives over the years.
The State has been having its own issues with the Centre over the past few years over several issues including the recent controversy over the ban on its traditional sport, Jallikkattu.
The Centre and the Sri Lankan government on Thursday decided to release 85 Tamil Nadu and 19 Sri Lankan fishermen who were arrested and detained by the respective countries.
Both countries in the past have released fishermen as gesture of goodwill. Several negotiations and meetings held in the past are yet to yield a permanent solution to an issue that continues to affect the livelihood of thousands of families on both sides of the Palk Strait.
Releasing the fishermen is not the answer to the larger question.
Both countries need to formulate a joint mechanism where fishing activities are monitored in the seas between the two countries.
The issue is not only about fishing. There have also been allegations that fishermen from Tamil Nadu engaged in drug smuggling. The veracity of these reports should be investigated. But, the system in question should also incorporate a mechanism to stop such activities taking place in mid-sea.
Apart from allegations of encroaching into Sri Lankan waters, the Tamil Nadu fishermen have also been accused of indulging in a fishing method known as ‘bottom trawling’.
This system involves a method where the boat destroys the underwater aquatic resources. Fishermen in the North complained that there was already a drastic drop in their catch which was a result of the illegal fishing method adopted by the Indian trawlers.
It is therefore a necessity for the Sri Lankan government to ensure that the resources belonging to the country are not destroyed.
TN’s solidarity with the North
Eight years ago, Tamil Nadu showed its solidarity with the people of the North when war reached its peak.
That time too, the State expressed its dissatisfaction over the inactive nature of the Central Government to press the then Sri Lankan regime to halt the war.
But today, it is the same State which is accused of destroying the resources and livelihood of the people they once stood for.
At the end of the day, fishermen of both regions risk their lives and struggle to make ends meet. Both governments should therefore discuss with the relevant parties and come to an agreement that would be agreed by all.
This is important in order to maintain a cordial relationship with the State, and also to ensure that Sri Lanka does not lose its valuable resources.
In addition, the government should also make sure that the fishermen in the North are looked after properly.
For years, the Northern fisher families were affected due to the war. For most part of the conflict, their movements within the seas were restricted for obvious reasons. They were given special passes and were allowed to fish only during a specific time period.
Today, they are plagued by another issue which is also affecting their livelihood.
Releasing fishermen is just a temporary measure. These same fishermen would come back to sea, and the same problems would crop up if no permanent solution is reached.