About 35 lakh fishermen living in more than 10 coastal districts including the State capital of Tamil Nadu on Thursday observed a dawn to dusk agitation to condemn the death penalty awarded to five colleagues from Rameswaram by a Sri Lankan court in a drug trafficking case and demanded their immediate release from Sri Lankan prison.
The agitation, launched by various fishing association in the state, included hunger strike, protest demonstrations and rally.
The protest was also to put pressure on the ruling AlIADMK in the state and the NDA government at the Centre to take measures for quashing the death penalty and ensure fishermen’s safe release from Colombo. In Chennai, more than 10,000 fishermen associated to Meenavargal Makkal Munnani (Fishermen People’s Front) stayed away from sea as part of the strike and also hoisted black flags atop their houses to protest against the death penalty.
According to the association chief J Kosumani, more than 30 lakh fishermen from 13 coastal districts, including Ramanathapuram, Nagapattinam, Tuticorin, Tirunelveli, Kanniyakumari, Chennai, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram, participated in the strike.
Business establishments and even petty shops in all the coastal fishing areas in the state were also closed to express their support with the agitated fishermen, who were demanding for the safe return of five of their ilk from Ramanathapuram District— Emerson, Augustus, Wilson, Prasad and Langtes — who were awarded death penalty last week. Fishing activities along few coast belts including Ramanathapuram in the state have been suspended since October 30.
South Indian Fishermen Association president Rajendran, who spearheaded the agitation in Nagapattinam district, threatened to intensify their protest if the innocent fishermen, who were convicted on fabricated charges, were not released forthwith.