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DMK chief Karunanidhi slams Centre's affidavit on Katchatheevu island

Chennai:  DMK chief and UPA's one-time ally M Karunanidhi today slammed the Centre's position in the Supreme Court over ceding of Kachchatheevu island whose control India had conceded to Sri Lanka in the 1970s.

"Centre has submitted information not based on facts in the Supreme Court. The Centre's affidavit in the Supreme Court, after Sri Lankan Minister Peiris' statement last week in Delhi that Kachchatheevu was a closed matter, comes like an vocal accompaniment," Mr Karunanidhi said in a statement today.

The Centre had on Friday submitted in the Supreme Court that the island belonged to neither side during the British rule and went to Sri Lanka when the international boundary lines were drawn. The question of retrieval did not arise hence, it said.

"It could stage a setback (for Tamil Nadu) in this issue. Centre's decision is condemnable," he said expressing hope that the top court will "uphold our rights".

Mr Karunanidhi had moved the Supreme Court in July this year seeking the retrieval of the island; his rival, AIADMK supremo and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa did that a couple of years ago. Their petition sought to declare the two agreements of June 1974 and March 1976 by which India gave the island to Sri Lanka as unconstitutional.

A Supreme Court bench, comprising the then Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, Justice FMI Kalifulla and Justice Vikramajit Sen, issued a notice to the Centre on the plea.

Katchatheevu is located in the narrow sea dividing India and Sri Lanka. The sea near it is said to be rich in marine life, leading to frequent clashes between Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen.

After Katchatheevu became part of Sri Lanka the fishing area available for Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu reduced drastically. Though the Indo-Sri Lankan agreement allows Indian fishermen to fish around Katchatheevu and to dry their nets on the island, fishermen and the Tamil Nadu government allege that Lankan navy attacks and often captures them while fishing in the area. According to government figures, close to 500 Indian fishermen have fallen prey to Lankan bullets over the last two decades.

Sri Lanka alleges that Indian fishermen actually fish in their waters and take away marine resources which rightfully belongs to the island nation and its fishermen.

Ms Jayalalithaa has often said that Indian fishermen from Tamil Nadu have been fishing in Lankan waters for ages and their rights and livelihood should not be deprived and had earlier mooted the idea of long term lease agreement with Lanka which would legally allow the fishermen from the state to fish in Lankan waters.

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