Chennai: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa on Friday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to protect the fishing rights of Indian fishermen and to retrieve the Katchatheevu islet from Sri Lanka.
Jayalalithaa presented a memorandum with various demands to Modi, who went to her residence after launching the National Handloom Day and India Handloom brand here.
The meeting between Modi and Jayalalithaa lasted around 50 minutes. The chief minister also hosted lunch for Modi.
In her memorandum, Jayalalithaa said that Katchatheevu was an island of 285 acres off Rameswaram in the narrow Palk Strait that divides Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka and was once a part of Ramanathapuram district.
“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,” the memorandum said.
As per the agreements entered into in 1974 and 1976, Katchatheevu was ceded to Sri Lanka. The fishermen of Tamil Nadu have since been deprived of their fishing rights around Katchatheevu, she said.
In 1991, the Tamil Nadu assembly passed a resolution seeking the restoration of Katchatheevu and the sea area adjacent to it to India.
A proposal was sent to the Indian government in 2003 to examine the feasibility of getting the island and adjacent seas on a ‘lease in perpetuity’.
Jayalalithaa said she in her personal capacity filed a srit petition in the Supreme Court in 2008, and the Tamil Nadu government impleaded itself in the case in 2011.
As per an 1960 Supreme Court order, any territory owned by India can be ceded to another country only through a constitutional amendment.
But Katchatheevu was ceded to Sri Lanka illegally.
The ceding of the island has emboldened the Sri Lankan Navy to resort to frequent attacks on Indian fishermen who fish in their traditional fishing grounds.
“India should, hence, take active steps to abrogate the 1974 and 1976 agreements and retrieve Katchatheevu and restore the traditional fishing rights of the fishermen of Tamil Nadu,” the memorandum said.
Jayalalithaa also urged Modi to secure the release of 31 Tamil Nadu fishermen and 23 boats from Sri Lankan custody.
She said Tamil Nadu fishermen had talked with with their Sri Lankan counterparts. Three rounds of talks had been held.
“Though there have been several resolutions in the first round of talks at Chennai, the second round at Colombo failed due to the obduracy of the Sri Lankan foreign ministry officials.
“However, during the third round of talks at Chennai, the fishermen of Tamil Nadu put forth a clear road map for resolving the Palk Bay issue which was subsequently rejected by the Sri Lankan fishermen,” she said.
She urged Modi to protect the fishing rights of Tamil Nadu fishermen.