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Pakistan and India urged to stop killing, arresting fishermen

24 December, 2013

KARACHI: Experts, activists and fishworkers held one-day consultation on the issue of fisherpeople who are caught by the marine forces of India and Pakistan, at the India Islamic Cultural Centre, New Delhi on Saturday.

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 of India also spoke at the consultation.

The family of killed fisherman, 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), Karamat Ali condemned the killing of the innocent fisherman, Naranbhai Sosa on October 11.

He demanded that the governments of India and Pakistan 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 the governments have been dragging their feet.

Mr Ali demanded that the South Asian governments 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 M Ilango warned that the violence unleashed at the fisherpeople would 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 those political forces which support the community would receive the support.

Earlier, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Indian Minister for Fisheries 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 the 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. 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.

Work out a 'Maritime Economic Co-operation Agreement' to have fishing rights for fisherpeople from both sides to be able to fish in a 'joint fishing zone'.

Release all fishermen in Indian and Pakistani jails.

Release of all boats, under Pakistani and Indian custody.

Implementation of the interim recommendations by the India-Pakistan Judicial Committee on Prisoners, set up jointly by both governments.

End.

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