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Urgent Press Release
Gujarat fishworkers delegation meets the Prime Minister: Demand release of all Pakistani fishermen in Indian jails along with their boats
New Delhi – 19th December 2013: Today, a ten member delegation of fishermen of Saurashtra, along with leaders of Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace & Democracy (PIPFPD), National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF) and a delegation of MPs from Gujarat, met with the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh at the latter’s residence.
The fisher leaders from Gujarat’s Saurashtra region came to Delhi to meet with the Prime Minister, the Agriculture Minister Shri. Sharad Pawar and the Minister for External Affairs Shri. Salman Khurshid in order to brief the political leadership regarding the issue of jailed Indian and Pakistani fishermen. They also demanded immediate release of boats of Pakistani fisherpeople, kept in the custody of the Indian Government. Shri. Jivan Jungi, National Committee Member, PIPFPD and on behalf of Akhil Gujarat Machhimar Mahamandal raised the issue of a fellow fisherman being killed by Pakistan’s MSA. Raising the issue of Shri. Naranbhai Sosa, the fisherman who was killed in firing by Pakistan’s Maritime Security Agency (MSA) in October, the delegation urged the PM to support the family of Mr. Sosa from the PM’s Relief Fund.
Fishworkers told the PM that the arrests by Indian Coastguards and MSA have increased manifold in the recent months since the monsoon trawl ban has been lifted in September 2013. Hundreds have been arrested and put behind bars, most of them being Indian fishermen, now in Pakistani jails. At present, around 229 Indian fishermen and about 780 Indian boats are in the custody of Pakistan. In addition to this, 23 boats of Indian fishermen have been confiscated just during the ongoing fishing season. Similarly, around 200 Pakistani fishermen and 150 Pakistani boats are with India.
The delegation, accompanied by Gujarat Congress leader and MP, Shri Arjun Modhwadia made the following other demands:
- Implement a ‘No Arrest Policy’ for Pakistani fishers, while fishing in Indian waters
- India must take the lead and work out an Economic Co-operation Agreement so as to have fishing rights for fisherpeople from both sides to be able to fish in a joint fishing zone
- Unilateral and unconditional release of all Pakistani fishermen in Indian jails
- Release of all Pakistani boats, under Indian custody
- A separate Fisheries Ministry at the Centre
- Centralised (national) Identity Cards for all fishermen who go to sea
- Implementation of the interim recommendations by the India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners
- The Indian Government to constitute a high-level working group involving the representatives from the fishing community to monitor and prevent the arrest of fishermen and confiscation of the boats
- Facilitation of Indian and Pakistani fisher people’s delegations to go to the other country to survey the condition of their boats in the custody of the other country
- An urgent meeting be arranged of the Task Force consisting of Indian Coast Guard and Pakistan’s MSA and a proper inquiry be conducted in the case of Naranbhai Sosa’s killing
Dr. Singh responded to the delegations demands positively. He assured the team that efforts will be taken by the UPA government to release the Pakistani fisherpeople in Indian jails along with their boats – as early as possible. He suggested that he could only expect a reciprocal similar action from the democratic government of Pakistan led by Mr. Nawaz Sharif.
The Prime Minister promised the delegation that the request for financial assistance to Mr. Sosa’s family will be considered by the PMO and action taken.
Agreeing that the fisherpeople are caught between the two South Asian conflicting neighbours, Dr. Singh asserted that his government would not leave any stone unturned to protect the lives and livelihood of fisherpeople of Saurashtra, Gujarat. He requested the delegation to also meet with the Agriculture Minister and the Minister of External Affairs to take forward demands specific to these ministries.
The delegation included the following fishworkers from Saurashtra along with Vijayan MJ (representing the PIPFPD):
Delegation of Gujarat Fishworkers from Porbandar includes:
Shri Dilipbhai Naranbhai Lodhari
Shri Narshibhai Kanjibhai Jungi
Shri Bhartbhai Dhanjibhai Modi
Shri Sunilbhai Devjibhai Gohel
Shri Hirenbhai Narshibhai Lodhari
Shri Chhaganbhai Gokarbhai Lodhari
Shri Nileshbhai Kanji Postaria