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Cross-border fishing and Fishermen’s arrests

NFF and PIPFPD Consultation on the fishworkers issue between India and Pakistan (21 Dec 2013, New Delhi)

19 December 2013

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INVITATION

NFF and PIPFPD Consultation on the fishworkers issue between India and Pakistan

December 19, 2013

Dear . . . ,

Could we have stopped the gruesome murder of Naranbhai Sosa? Did we do enough in the past to stop such murders from taking place? Do we care at all or are we also like the Gujarat government and the Central Government, which have shown utmost apathy towards the plight of people like him? So far his tribe of Gujarati fishermen were only arrested, but now are being killed for crossing the maritime borders between India and Pakistan.

Mr Naranbhai Sosa was shot dead on 11th October 2013 when Pakistan’s Maritime Security Agency, (MSA) fired indiscriminately on the Indian fishermen’s boat, Dhanvantari. Naranbhai lost his life, 30 fishermen were abducted and five Indian boats confiscated. In his case, they alleged that he had crossed over the maritime borders into ‘Pakistani sea’, had refused to surrender and was fleeing when they shot him. According to other Indian fishermen, Naranbhai was very much in ‘Indian waters’ when the MSA fired upon his boat, killing him.

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. This is not surprising considering the rude reality that whenever the India-Pakistan border posts on land heats up with the firing between forces, the waters boil too! Hundreds have been arrested and put behind bars, most of them being Indian fishermen, now in Pakistani jails. The Fishing villages and towns of Saurashtra in Gujarat and Diu are the areas where people are most affected with arrests and boats getting confiscated. Fishing is a major source of livelihood of the people living in the coastal region of Saurashtra, Gujarat and the export of fish and fish products is a major contributor to India’s foreign exchange.

For years, groups including Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace & Democracy (PIPFPD), National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF), and other citizens groups have been working relentlessly towards a permanent settlement to the issue of arrests and ‘cross-border fishing’. However, both governments continue to treat the issue as a hostage to settle other disputes and scores. There are various mechanisms to work on this issue that have already been created like the Task Force, the Judicial Committee on Prisoners etc. but there is an urgent need for action to be taken. Moreover, there is an urgent need to take forward the demand for a “No Arrest Policy” which would be a significant Confidence Building Measure. It must be noted that it is the result of various democratic struggles led by the fisher people since many years that has finally led the Gujarat government to begin mentioning the issue. However, there is no doubt in saying that Political parties in Gujarat and at the Centre have shown utmost disregard to the lives and livelihoods of fisher people who are really caught between the devil and the deep sea!

Fishworkers have raised this issue at multiple levels and have been reiterating that the people of the two countries meet and engage with each other since it is more than clear that the situation now is extremely severe. We need to sincerely work towards positive dialogue processes that can strengthen the relations between the two countries and it is important that the government of India facilitates such initiatives. There is a delegation of fishworkers who would be visiting Pakistan in the next few months. It is extremely important for fishworkers from India to visit Pakistan in order to get a complete idea of the condition of their boats and also the legal processes involved, the requirements and the difficulties in getting the boats back.

PIPFPD and NFF are organising a one-day consultation on this issue. A detailed compilation on the issue was brought out in 2013 by PSA (Programme for Social Action), an independent organisation that has been working on the issue since the past many years. The effort is to bring together fisher people from India and Pakistan, officials on both sides, political representatives, Members of Parliament and concerned citizens and groups to find a peaceful way forward and a lasting solution to the issue. Selected journalists, experts on marine issues and other Trade Unions will also be coming together for this consultation.

An in depth analysis of these issues is required and there is no doubt that your experience and engagement with these issues will be extremely beneficial. We hope you will join the consultation in its entirety and help evolve a common position between the different stakeholders.

Date & Day: 21st December 2013, Saturday

Time: 10am to 5pm

Venue: India Islamic Cultural Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi

Awaiting your positive response.

Regards,

M. Ilango, Chairperson, NFF

Jatin Desai, Secretary, PIPFPD India

For any further details contact:

Jatin Desai: H-17/1 (basement), Malviya Nagar, New Delhi-110017 |Phone: 09869077718 Email: jatindesai123 at gmail.com

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Draft Programme Schedule (some speaker confirmations awaited)

Welcome and Setting the Context:

Jatin Desai, Senior Journalist, Activist and Secretary PIPFPD, India

Session I: Community Perspectives 10 am to 11.30 am

Chair: Dr Syeda Hameed, Member Planning Commission, GoI

Speakers:

Muhammad Ali Shah, General Secretary, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF)

Jivan Jungi, Fishworker from Saurashtra, Gujarat

Vejibhai Masani, Fishworker from Saurashtra, Gujarat

Hansa Suyani, National Committee Member, PIPFPD and involved with the Fishworker issue in Veraval, Gujarat

Gopal Bhai Arjan Bhai Sosa (Brother of Naranbhai Sosa)

Nimu Ben Naranbhai Sosa (Wife of Naranbhai Sosa)

Punji Ben (Sister of Naranbhai Sosa)

Responses by Parliamentarians: Mani Shankar Aiyar, D. Raja and Others

Discussion

Tea Break: 11.30 am to 12 pm

Session II: Experts Speak 12pm to 1.30 pm

Chair: Karamat Ali, Peace Activist and Expert on Labour and Fisherfolk issues - Pakistan

Speakers:

Mukul Sharma, Writer and Author of ‘Contested Coastlines, Fisherfolk, Nations and Borders in South Asia’

J.John, Executive Director, Centre for Education and Communication (CEC), New Delhi

Colin Gonsalves, Lawyer, Supreme Court, Fighting cases for release of fishworker prisoners.

Kuldip Nayar, Eminent Journalist, Parliamentarian and Peace Activist

Responses by MP’s and officials

Lunch: 1.30 pm to 2.30 pm

Session III: Conflict Tranformation and the Way Forward 2.30pm to 5pm

Chair: E. Deenadayalan, Peace Activist and Former General Secretary, PIPFPD, India

Speakers:

Vijayan MJ, National Committee Member, PIPFPD

Karamat Ali, Peace Activist and Expert on Labour and Fisherfolk issues - Pakistan

Muhammad Ali Shah, General Secretary, Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF)

Tea Break: 4 pm to 4.15 pm

Responses and Discussion

Concluding Remarks:

Tapan Bose, South Asia Peace Activist and Chairperson Emiretus PIPFPD, India

Press Interaction: 5 pm )]