GOI must take steps to expedite release of Bengali fishermen arrested by Bangladesh

Bangladesh authorities have been seizing and confiscating several registered Indian fishing trawlers in Bay of Bengal on the pretext of violating International Maritime Border Line.

132 fishermen from West Bengal to been arrested by Bangladesh authorities and kept in Bagherhat jail in Khulna division since October this year. The fishermen were unaware of the new re-alignment of the maritime border between the two countries.

Realignment of maritime border

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on December 2, 2014, spoke to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to initiate the process of bringing back fishermen who have been captured in Bangladesh owing to the change in Indo-Bangla martime border after the verdict of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) was passed in July earlier this year.

Principal Secretary of the Fisheries Department, Syed Ahmed Baba stated that protocol requires a 3 month cooling off period after the verdict is passed, during which there cannot be any action taken against cross border trawlers on the basis of the order. After this period, the Energy Maritime Association (EMA) is supposed to notify on the redrawn maritime border and give appropriate time to such trawlers to return to their respective countries.

Centre must take immediate action

19,000 sq km of exclusive economic maritime zone where Indian fishermen would cast their nets, which was handed over to Bangladesh about five months ago to bring an end to a 40-year-old dispute between the two countries, has negatively resulted in families of the 132 fishermen in Khulna jail, spending sleepless nights.

It is difficult to free these guiltless fishermen unless the Foreign Ministry sends a message explaining what had led to the error. We demand immediate steps from the Government of India to have a dialogue with the Bangladesh Government for the release of fishermen and trawlers.