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India releases six detained fishermen

Families, supporters call off renewed protest and threatened hunger strike

Buddhist monks in silent protest against the detentions Buddhist monks in silent protest against the detentions
  • ucanews.com reporter, Kalpitiya
  • Sri Lanka
  • January 19, 2012
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India has freed six fishermen held in the Andaman Islands for nearly two years, following an appeal for their release by the Sri Lankan government.

“They were handed over to the police by a local court yesterday. The Sri Lankan high commission in Chennai is now arranging for them to be brought home,” Herman Kumara, convener of the National Fishery Solidarity Movement, said today.

“Their families and their supporters who have battled hard campaigning for their release are overjoyed at this news,” he said.

The six fishermen, four Catholics and two Buddhists, from the western towns of Chilaw and Kalpitiya were arrested in 2010, for allegedly fishing illegally in Indian waters.

Their arrest and detention prompted relatives and friends including Buddhist monks to launch a series of campaigns to force the Sri Lankan government into trying to win their release through diplomatic channels.

In October last year, family members and several monks launched a hunger strike which was called off after they won a promise from the north-western province fisheries minister that the authorities would seek to win the fishermen’s release within three months.

With that deadline running out, the monks and relatives launched another protest campaign on Tuesday, threatening to go on hunger strike again on January 25 if the fishermen were not released by next week.

“If the government had not intervened, we would have resumed the hunger strike,” said Venerable Pujaya Diyasena Thero, the abbot of Kandakkuliya temple near Kalpitiya.

“We are so happy hearing of their release,” the monk said today.

Fishing disputes have become an increasing problem for the Sri Lankan and Indian governments over recent years with hundreds of arrests taking place annually.

Only last week an Indian delegation met with government officials in Colombo to try and resolve these disputes.

Following the talks, fisheries minister Rajitha Senaratne said that they intend to come up with a joint plan to prevent fisherman from both countries fishing in each other’s waters.

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