Katchatheevu row: PM attacks DMK, Cong asks him to talk about China | Politics News


Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday accused the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) of having “done nothing” to safeguard the interests of Tamil Nadu’s fishing community. His social media post also contained a link to a newspaper report that said prime minister Indira Gandhi took the DMK leadership into confidence on the Katchatheevu deal.


In his post on X, the PM described the Congress and DMK as “family units”, which “only care that their own sons and daughters rise”.  “Their callousness on Katchatheevu has harmed the interests of our poor fishermen and fisherwomen in particular,” he said.


The PM’s attack on DMK came a day after he targeted the Congress for weakening the unity and integrity of the country by ceding the Katchatheevu island to Sri Lanka in 1974. The DMK and Congress are constituents of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) bloc and allies in Tamil Nadu.


DMK President and Chief Minister M K Stalin questioned the BJP’s “sudden love” for fishermen ahead of elections. He questioned the PM over the Rs 37,000 crore flood relief package sought by the state.


Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said the PM should speak on “Chinese occupation” of Indian territory rather than about Katchatheevu which was ceded to Sri Lanka to maintain good relations and to save the lives of millions of Tamils. Chidambaram said India had ceded Katchatheevu after negotiations, and in return, 600,000 Tamils were allowed to come to India. “They have come here, their families are here, they have got full freedom, they are breathing free air. Their children and grandchildren are here. The issue was closed 50 years ago,” he said.

Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh pointed to a January 27, 2015 reply of the Ministry of External Affairs, which said that the agreement did not involve either acquiring or ceding of territory belonging to India since the area in question had never been demarcated. This was because “under the agreements, the Island of Katchatheevu lies on the Sri Lankan side of the India-Sri Lanka International Maritime Boundary Line…The easiest to hunt in a political expedition is a scapegoat. Who will it be?” Ramesh added.


Have to work it out with Lankan govt: Jaishankar


Addressing a press conference in the national capital, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Monday claimed that prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi dubbed Katchatheevu as a “little island” and “little rock”, which the Congress government ceded to Sri Lanka in 1974. He said that the issue had not cropped up abruptly but was frequently raised in Parliament and was a matter of frequent correspondence between the Centre and the state government. He said DMK’s leader and then chief minister M Karunanidhi was kept fully informed about the 1974 agreement. In 20 years, 6,184 Indian fishermen have been detained by Sri Lanka and their 1,175 fishing vessels seized by the neighbouring country, Jaishankar said. “We have to find a solution. We have to sit down and work it out with the Sri Lankan government,” he said.

Jaishankar dismissed Congress leadership’s argument that a pact between the two countries in 1974 allowing the repatriation of 6,00,000 Tamils from Sri Lanka to India was made possible due to the island agreement. There is nothing in the agreement that offers any benefit other than what is already there, he said. On whether India will move to reclaim the island, Jaishankar said it was a sub-judice matter and nobody should speculate.


The controversy over Katchatheevu, a 285-acre uninhabited island in the Palk Bay, comes amid Tamil Nadu’s 39 Lok Sabha seats and the Union Territory of Puducherry going to polls in the first phase on April 19. The BJP, under the leadership of its state unit chief K Annamalai, is making a strong bid for an improved poll performance in the state, where it has had an insignificant electoral presence. The newspaper reports, links to which the PM posted on X, are based on Right to Information queries that Annamalai, a former Indian Police Service officer, submitted to the government.

First Published: Apr 01 2024 | 10:05 PM IST


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