Tamil Nadu fishermen hoisted black flags on Wednesday in protest against Sri Lanka's move to nationalise previously seized trawlers owned by the fishermen.
In December 2020, fishermen from Rameshwaram were arrested and detained by the Sri Lankan navy who also seized their trawlers.
They were released by Colombo last week and arrived at the Chennai International Airport on January 19. Despite the release of the fishermen, the Kayts Magistrate Court ordered that the confiscated property of the Tamil Nadu fishermen which includes four trawlers worth lakhs of rupees, be taken into state ownership.
This decision has been met with fierce resistance by Tamil Nadu fishermen as it will cause them grave financial burden and are demanding that the court rescind its ruling and called for their property to be released and returned to them immediately.
Furthermore, they demand that Sri Lanka conduct itself in accordance with the 1974 naval agreement it signed with India and which they say allows them to engage in fishing in traditional Tamil areas in the sea including the territory surrounding Katchatheevu.
Rameswaram fishermen have also called off venturing into the waters for the 11th continuous day as a mark of protest against persistent Sri Lankan harassment and arrests.
Over 20,000 fishermen and around 50,000 fishing-related labourers are reported to have lost their work, severely affecting their economic livelihood. Despite this, Tamil Nadu fishermen are expected to continue their protest over the next several days.
Fishing has been a longstanding issue in the bilateral relations between India and Sri Lanka, Last week, the Indian government conveyed 'strong protest' after four fishermen from Tamil Nadu were killed following a collision with Sri Lankan navy and claims of torture.
India's Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) released a statement condemning the incident and stressed that "existing understandings between the two Governments in that regard must be strictly observed."
Attacks and harrassment of Tamil Nadu fishermen has continued despite India and Sri Lanka pledging to "continue engagement to address issues related to fishermen through regular consultation and bilateral channels."