by Rohini Mohan
DMK Rajya Sabha member, and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi’s daughter, Kanimozhi answers questions following TEHELKA’s special report on the shooting of fishermen from Tamil Nadu.
TEHELKA found that the violence by the Sri Lankan navy is widespread. Almost every fisherman in the Palk Bay has gone through torture, and yet they say they have no option but to crossover to Sri Lanka. What will your government do?
EXPRESSING SOLIDARITY: Kanimozhi, MP, being arrested in Chennai on Wednesday during the agitation against the arrest of fishermen by Sri Lankan Navy. Photo: V. Ganesan: courtesy: The Hindu
I understand that our fishermen are desperate and that fishermen from Jaffna, Sri Lanka, are complaining that Indians are going into Sri Lankan waters. The Tamil Nadu Government would set up a meeting between the fishermen from the two countries, and they can come to an agreement that our governments should stick with. This could go a long way in resolving the livelihood issue. But the violence must stop first, and for this we will take on the Indian and the Sri Lankan governments.
What was the point in courting arrest along with DMK cadres on 16 February 2011?
Some 106 Indian fishermen are detained in Sri Lanka, and we want them to be released. One of the 24 fishermen who were recently caught was also severely hurt. So we staged the dharna to send a message to the Sri Lankan and Indian governments that they should put an end to this violence.
Why are you reacting to the shootings now, when 400 people have been killed over the last 20 years?
The DMK had taken up the issue repeatedly before, but this spate of shootings has come after a long gap. Two fishermen lost their lives in a span of 15 days this year, so we had to react.
Does this reaction not conveniently come on the eve of the assembly election?
Just because there is an election coming up, should we not take up the issue? It may look like a political stunt, but we intend to take real action.
The Tamil Nadu Government has been taking on the Indian and the Sri Lankan governments on the shootings. Even the Prime Minister has said it is a serious issue. Now, it is the turn of the Sri Lankan Government to intervene and make it clear to its navy that Indian fishermen should not get hurt. We also need to strengthen our Coast Guard so that they can patrol the border and prevent our fishermen from crossing.
Do you think making the Palk Strait a common fishing ground is a solution?
I think this issue can only really be resolved when fishermen from Sri Lanka and India talk. The Tamil Nadu Government will facilitate that.
Is the reclamation of Katchatheevu Island an old trope or will it actually make a difference? It is not important whether we reclaim the Katchatheevu Island. It is more important to at least reclaim fishing rights for Indian fishermen around Katchatheevu. There is no civil war in Sri Lanka now, so I don't see a security concern. Whatever rights the Indian fishermen had should be restored. ~ courtesy: Tehelka ~