Only upon an assurance to honour the rights of India over Katchatheevu under agreements, the political parties in Tamil Nadu must lend support to the central government in India. Apart from this, all Tamil Nadu political parties, including Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIDMK), Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) are paying lip service and political posturing only on the issue, by just keep talking of Tamil, Tamils and welfare of Tamils.
In an Editorial on Friday July 18th, the leading Tamil Daily in Chennai, Dinamani chided the political parties of Tamil Nadu for the lack of any winning action on alleviating the plight of Tamil Nadu fishermen’s safety and restoring rights over Katchatheevu.
Excerpts from the editorial:
Recently two Tamil Nadu fishermen were killed by the Sri Lanka Navy in the Palk Straits. The Sri Lankan forces have shot and killed over 800 fishermen in the past 25 years.
Over 250 have been killed just in the past 2 years only.
The attacks on the Tamil Nadu fishermen have been taking place over the last 35 years. The fishermen have been attacked, their boats and fishing gear destroyed and also arresting and dragging them to the Sri Lankan shores.
Ironically, the Sri Lankan Navy has entered our territories and beaten Tamil Nadu fishermen in the past. There have been incidents where the fishermen were attacked by Sri Lankan air force helicopters. It’s deeply puzzling as to why there was not even one incident of the Indian forces taking any defensive action.
The watered-down agreement on handing over Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka took place in 1974. Even then, today’s Tamil Nadu Chief Minister was at the helm. It is true that there were no cordial relations between the Congress Party at the centre and DMK at that time. Yet, the DMK who had absolute majority in the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly then, did not steadfastly fight for the rights of Tamil Nadu. But today DMK has stepped up in campaigning for Sethu, calling for hartals, protest marches and token fasts.
“The fishing rights enjoyed by the Indian fishermen thus far, right to sail in territorial waters of both countries and journeying to Katchatheevu – all these are guaranteed,” assured the then External Affairs Mininster Sardar Swaran Singh. Incidentally he was responding to a question and condemnation of the Katchatheevu agreement by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who later became the Prime Minster of India.
In 1976 the Departments of External Affairs of the two countries entered into another agreement. But the rights mentioned above by Sardar Swaran Singh were forgone at this juncture.
Katchatheevu is a small island, ten miles off the coast of Sri Lanka and 12 miles off the coast of India. It was a gigantic blunder to have healed to the Sri Lanka demands of claiming rights to Katchatheevu, for having a close proximity just by a miniscule difference of 2 miles.
As a coalition partner of the central government in 1989, 1996 and 1999, if DMK had bargained hard enough for providing support for the collation, Indian government requirements may have yielded some changes in the way Sri Lanka functioned, even in the absence of a complete resolution to the matter.
All political parties forming coalitions at the centre in the past are answerable to the people, as to why no attempts were made to bring about a solution to this matter. Those who have obtained concessions on various sectors and affairs couldn’t make any headway on this issue relating to external affairs, need to give an explanation of their standing to the masses.
AIDMK leader Jayalalitha had suggested to take a lease on Katchatheevu, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh took office as the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalition government was formed after the 2004 general elections. Chief Minister Karunanidhi now says the time has come to restore the rights over Katchatheevu and also wants a Tamil to be named as ambassador to Sri Lanka.
It is enigmatic to see the DMK leader not being bold enough to put forward a request asking to appoint one of his party stalwarts at the helm of Indian External affairs and say we will reclaim our rights to Katchatheevu. When Katchatheevu was watered-down in 1974 and in 1976 during the time it was let go completely, it is true that Chief Minister Karunanidhi did not have warm relations with the government at the centre. But he has that now. DMK glitters as a powerful ally at the centre today. Then why harbour a lukewarm attitude in the name of international consent?
Be it DMK,AIDMK, PMK or MDMK, these parties must support coalitions at the centre only if assurances are given to restore the rights of Tamil Nadu fishermen to roll out their nets in the waters around India and guarantee our rights to Katchatheevu.
If not, what all these parties do today are just lip service and political posturing.
Dinamani Editorial, translated as appeared inThinakkural