New Delhi, Sept. 2: Opposition parties today accused the Centre of “betraying” Tamil Nadu by telling the Supreme Court last week that the Kachatheevu island off the Rameswaram coast was not part of Indian territory.
“Tamil Nadu is shocked that the UPA government, in an affidavit to the Supreme Court, ceded it (Kachatheevu) to Sri Lanka. This is the greatest betrayal of Tamil Nadu,” AIADMK member V. Maitreyan said in Parliament.
He quoted former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as saying that Kachatheevu was part of India.
The island’s ownership was marred in controversy till 1974. New Delhi signed agreements with Colombo in 1974 and 1976 ceding the island to Sri Lanka.
Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa and former chief minister M. Karunanidhi have filed separate petitions in the Supreme Court challenging the agreements’ constitutional validity since they were not ratified by Parliament.
The petitions want the agreements declared unconstitutional and the Centre directed to restore the right of Tamil Nadu fishermen to fish in the waters surrounding Kachatheevu, dry their nets there and worship at St Antony’s Church on the island.
Kachatheevu is an uninhabited island about 10 miles northeast of Rameswaram on the Indian side and nine miles south of Delft Island on the Sri Lankan side. It has an area of 285.20 acres and is one mile and 300 yards at its widest.
The seawaters surrounding it are rich in marine life, especially prawn, and are a favourite fishing ground with Tamil Nadu fishermen.
CPI member D. Raja said India should approach an international court of justice to settle the issue. BJP leader M. Venkaiah Naidu said the government should hold an all-party meeting to discuss the matter.
The DMK’s Kanimozhi condemned the Centre’s position and urged the government to pressure Colombo to release the Tamil Nadu fishermen its navy had arrested.