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Fishermen on faceoff island

Calcutta, Nov. 22: A faceoff between fishermen and forest guards raged on the waters around Jambudwip in South 24-Parganas where a Supreme Court ban on encroachment is in force.

About 1,000 fishermen in 45 trawlers set sail for the island yesterday, led by Harekrishna Debnath, the chairperson of the National Fishworkers Forum, Tejendralal Das, secretary of the Kakdwip Fishermen’s Association and Paritosh Das, the secretary of the Jambudwip Dry Fish Fishermen’s Association, on the occasion of World Fisheries Day.

They descended on the island and began construction on two shacks when forest guards demolished them. “The fishermen traditionally perform a rite in a temple on the island to mark the beginning of the dry fish season,” Debnath said.

He added that they would not leave the island and continue to sit on dharna on their trawlers.

However, forest minister Jogesh Barman said trawlers would not be allowed there as there was a risk of foreign poachers entering the ecologically sensitive area bordering the Sundarbans. “I have informed the chief minister,” Barman said.

But fisheries minister Kiranmoy Nanda sung a different tune. No one can be stopped from fishing on waters within India, he said. “The ban is on setting up dried fish farms on the island, not fishing off it.” Several fishermen had died last week when the guards drove their trawlers away as they entered a creek adjoining the island seeking shelter from a cyclone.

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