Chennai: Sri Lanka today released 34 of the 53 Indian fishermen allegedly arrested by its Navy. This comes a day after India summoned Sri Lanka's Deputy High Commissioner and lodged strong protest over the arrests. They had asked Sri Lanka that the fishermen should be released at the earliest.
Sri Lanka said the fishermen were arrested for allegedly fishing in their waters.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa had written to the Prime Minister on Thursday, asking him to summon the Sri Lankan envoy. "Let Sri Lanka not be emboldened by your silence," she wrote.
Syed Akbaruddin, spokesperson for the External Affairs Ministry, said that Sri Lankan authorities arrested 19 fishermen on Wednesday and another 34 on Thursday for allegedly fishing in Sri Lanka's waters.
He said the first lot of 19 had been taken to Talaimannar in Sri Lanka's northwest, and the Indian consul in Jaffna was trying to gain access to them.
Fishermen from both countries often stray into each other's territory as both countries are divided by a small strip of sea. Over the last 20 years, more than 300 Indian fishermen have reportedly fallen prey to the Lankan navy's attacks.
India's gifting of the Katchatheevu Island to Sri Lanka in the '70s has reduced fishing space available for Indian fishermen. Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, who has been demanding retrieval of the island, has mooted the idea of entering into a long-term lease agreement with the Lankan government so that Indian fishermen could legally use Lankan waters for fishing.