Plight of Indian fishermen languishing in Sri Lankan, Pakistani jails


New Delhi: Thousands of Indian fishermen are languishing in the jails of neighbouring countries with nearly 650 of them arrested this year until October only by maritime security agencies of Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Burma and Bangladesh.

According to government sources, Sri Lanka is topping the chart as some 350 Indian fishermen have been arrested and 52 fishing trawlers seized by the Sri Lankan navy. Pakistan’s MSA has arrested 239 Indian fishermen and seized 35 fishing boats. Bangladesh has 56 and Burma has 6 Indian fishermen in their custody.

In most of the cases, Indian fishermen set forth into the waters or the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the neighbouring countries, which led their maritime security agencies to take action against them.

Two incidents were witnessed in September and October where fishermen were fatally attacked by MSA when they ventured into Pakistan waters. Thereupon, the Indian coast guard issued a fresh advisory to the Gujarat government recently warning them not to wander in the “no-fishing” zone.

This advisory came against the backdrop of the killing of a 40-year-old fisherman who had set forth 10 nautical miles inside Pakistani waters and was shot dead on September 18. Another fisherman was found injured when his boat was in Pakistani waters on October 15. He was identified as Dhanji Bamaniya and was let off on humanitarian grounds along with five others.

Authorities have warned the fishermen against not only crossing the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL) but also not to do fishing in the “no fishing” zone, failing which their documents would be forfeited.

“We have informed the Fisheries Department of Gujarat government about this. On our part we can only seize their documents and hand it over to the state authorities,” a Coast Guard official said.

An Indian delegation is scheduled to visit Pakistan to inspect 22 Indian boats seized by the neighbouring country and discuss modalities for their release. Coast Guard sources said that the Pakistani authorities keep releasing fishermen, but not the boats.

(With inputs from agencies)