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Stop killing and arresting fishermen; Fishworkers Demand Governments of India and Pakistan

by sacw.net, 22 December 2013

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National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF)
Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace & Democracy (PIPFPD India)

C/O: F-10/12, Malviya Nagar, New Delhi – 110017
Phones: 011-26687725 / 09582862682 / 09869077718
Email: jatindesai123 at gmail.com / pipfpd at pipfpd.org

Press Release

22nd December 2013

Stop killing and arresting fishermen;
Fishworkers Demand Governments of India and Pakistan

  • Fishworkers to intensify the efforts for release of fishers and boats from Indian and Pakistani Governments
  • Pakistani groups move Supreme Court of Pakistan for release of all Pakistani & Indian fishermen along with their boats. Similar matter being argued in Indian Supreme Court
  • Fishing communities to work together at South Asia level to pressurise governments for regional maritime economic co-operation
  • National Fishworkers’ Forum NFF-India), Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace & Democracy (PIPFPD) and Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) jointly appeal for support to the family of killed Indian fisherman, Naranbhai Sosa

Experts, activists and fishworkers hold one-day consultation on the issue of fisherpeople who are caught between the marine forces of India and Pakistan. The consultation was held at the India Islamic Cultural Centre, New Delhi on the 21st December 2013. Shri. Kuldip Nayar, Tapan Bose, Jatin Desai, Jivan Jungi, Bharat Mody, Hansa Suyani, Gautam Mody, M. Ilango, Naredra R Patil, Ashok Choudhary, T. Peter, Olencio Simoes, other activists, fisher leaders and issue experts also spoke at the consultation. The family of killed fisherman, Shri. Naranbhai Sosa – including his wife Nimu Ben, brother Gopalbhai Sosa and sister Punji Ben were present at the consultation and spoke to the media.

Speaking at the consultation, Pakistani labour expert and founding President of Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF), Shri. Karamat Ali condemned the killing of the innocent fisherman, Shri Naranbhai Sosa, on October 11th 2013. He demanded the governments to immediately hold a joint task force meeting between the Marine Security Agency (MSA-Pak) and Indian Coast Guard and stop the unwanted violence and arrests in the Arabian Sea. He stated that the issue including that of Sir Creek is among the most easily resolvable CBMs, however both governments have been dragging their feet. Mr. Ali demanded the South Asian Governments to adopt uniform fishing policies for the region.

Labour expert Mr. J John argued that both governments are violating the UN Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) by not providing innocent passage to fishing boats of the other. Condemning the governmental approach of arresting the fishermen and confiscating the boats, he said that the fisher issue should be seen from the point of view of fishers right to livelihood and traditional and customary rights that precede the partition of India and Pakistan.

Chairperson of National Fishworkers’ Forum, Shri. M Ilango warned that the violence unleashed at the fisherpeople will not be tolerated and that entire Indian and Pakistani fishing community stand together on this issue against the governments. Reminding the UPA government of the upcoming General Elections, the fisher leader stated that only political forces that support the community will receive the support.

Earlier the Indian Prime Minister Mr. Manmohan Singh, External Affairs Minister Mr. Salman Khurshid and Minister for Fisheries Mr. Sharad Pawar responded positively to the demands of fishermen of Gujarat and Diu. A delegation of Fishermen of Gujarat along with representatives of Pakistan-India Peoples’ Forum for Peace & Democracy (PIPFPD), Akhil Gujarat Machhimar Mahamandal and National Fishworkers’ Forum (NFF) met them in last two days.

At the consultation, fishworkers from Gujarat stated 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. Around 229 Indian fishermen and about 803 Indian boats are in the custody of Pakistan. Similarly, around 200 Pakistani fishermen and 150 Pakistani boats are in Indian custody.

The consultation placed the following demands to both governments:

Implement a ‘No Arrest Policy’ for Indian and Pakistani fishermen (No Arrest policy was discussed between then PMs Rajiv Gandhi & Benazir Bhutto, IK Gujral & Nawaz Sharif and also between A B Vajpayee & Nawaz Sharif.)

Work out a ‘Maritime 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’

  1. Release all fishermen in Indian and Pakistani jails
  2. Release of all boats, under Pakistani and Indian custody
  3. Implementation of the interim recommendations by the India-Pakistan
  4. Judicial Committee on Prisoners, set up jointly by both Governments

Jatin Desai

Secretary, PIPFPD-India