Tamil Nadu Fishermen to boycott fishing indefinitely

Hundreds of fishermen on Thursday decided to boycott fishing indefinitely after talks with the Sri Lankan Deputy High Commissioner to secure relase of five fishermen taken into custody by the island nation's navy failed, officials said.

Ramanathapuram District Collector Arun Roy, who led a two member team for the meet, said despite the setback, the Tamil Nadu government had contacted foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai and talks would be held with Lankan government Officials and Centre to get the fishermens released.

He said he and president of Innocent Fishermen's Association U Arulanandham were told by High Commissioner Mahalingam that drug smuggling cases had been filed against the fishermen arrested three days ago and they would face 30 years imprisionment if convicted by a court.

The Sri Lankan official told the collector that two hearings had been completed and one more was due and that the India would have to hold talks with Lankan officials to secure their release.

The fishermen who have been on strike since Wednesday protesting against the arrest of their comrades, picketed the taluk office today, demanding action by the authorities.

They told the Collector that Lankan navalmen have for long opened fire at their boats, killing many of them, robbed their catch, cut their fishing nets and pelted stones at them. A 'false' drug smuggling case had now been filed against their colleagues, they said.

The fishermen feared more false cases would be filed against them if they were caught by the Lankan navy while fishing and said they would not venture into the sea unless those arrested were released.

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