Jayalalitha moves court to retrieve island from Sri Lanka

August 7th, 2008 - 8:42 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 7 (IANS) Former Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalitha Thursday moved the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the central government to retrieve from Sri Lanka the Kachatheevu island off Rameshwaram that India ceded in 1974. The AIADMK chief contended that then prime minister Indira Gandhi gave away Kachatheevu without suitably amending the constitution, mandatory for effecting any change in Indian territory.

The opposition leader in the Tamil Nadu assembly also sought the court’s direction to the central government to restore the rights of the fishermen to visit the island with their fishing vessels for fishing.

In her lawsuit, filed through counsel Srikala Guru Krishnakumar, Jayalalitha said that Kacahtheevu, in the narrow Palk Strait that divides India and Sri Lanka, “was historically the part of Raja of Ramnad jamindari (landholding) and after the abolition of jamindari system in 1948 it became the part of Madras presidency”.

But the Indian government, acceding to an unjustified Sri Lankan territorial claim over the island, being made since 1921, ceded it to Sri Lanka in 1974, she said.

She said that the “island was used by the fishermen of both the countries to dry their nets, to rest and to pray in St. Antony’s Church, built by an Indian fishermen of Ramnad on the island”.

Jayalalitha said that there was even an annual pilgrimage to the island by the fishermen of both countries.

Stating that the fishermen from both India and Sri Lanka used to undertake fishing in the waters around the island without any animosity, Jayalalitha said that the island was of “strategic importance and special significance for fishing operations”.

She said that despite consistent protests by the locals and their representatives in parliament, the Indian government ceded the island to Sri Lanka. The decision has not been ratified by parliament till date.

She said that the Indian government in 1976 even surrendered the rights of the Indian fishermen over the island, affecting their livelihood.

Today, she said, due to the hostile attitude of the Sri Lankan Navy, the fishermen feared to go fishing near Kachatheevu.

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