19 Indian fishermen detained by Sri Lanka Navy return home

Colombo: As many as 19 Indian fishermen detained by the Sri Lanka Navy were on Wednesday repatriated to India after being released by authorities here, the Indian High Commission said.

“Returning home! 19 Indian fishermen have been repatriated from Sri Lanka and are now on their way from Colombo to Chennai,” the Indian High Commission here said in a post on X.

The Navy has so far held 23 Indian trawlers and 178 Indian fishermen for allegedly fishing in the island nation’s waters thus far in 2024, and handed them over to authorities for legal action, the Sri Lankan Navy late last month confirmed in a statement.

The fishermen issue is a contentious one in the ties between India and Sri Lanka, with Lankan Navy personnel even firing at Indian fishermen in the Palk Strait and seizing their boats in several alleged incidents of illegally entering Sri Lankan territorial waters.

The release of 19 Indian fishermen comes amidst a row over the Katchatheevu island issue after India’s ruling BJP blamed the Congress Party for ceding the tiny island to Sri Lanka in 1974.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday cited a media report to assert that new facts reveal that the Congress Party “callously” gave away Katchatheevu island to Sri Lanka.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar also slammed the Congress Party and ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) over the Katchchatheevu island issue.

The Palk Strait, a narrow strip of water separating Tamil Nadu from Sri Lanka, is a rich fishing ground for fishermen from both countries.

Fishermen from both countries are arrested frequently for inadvertently trespassing into each other’s waters.

In 2023, the island nation’s Navy arrested 240 Indian fishermen along with 35 trawlers for allegedly poaching in Sri Lankan waters.