‘Sri Lanka should consult Indian fishermen on new church in Katchatheevu’

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Chennai, May 14 (IANS) The government should prevail upon Sri Lanka to reconstruct a church in Katchatheevu island after consulting Indian fishermen, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa said in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday.

In the letter to Modi, Jayalalithaa brought to his notice Sri Lanka’s plans to demolish the ancient St. Anthony’s Church in Katchatheevu and build a new one.

“This reported move of the Sri Lankan government has greatly exercised the Indian fishermen in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu who have regularly visited and worshipped at this Church for several centuries,” Jayalalithaa said in the letter.

“The fishermen who mostly belong to the Roman Catholic faith are extremely concerned that they have not been consulted regarding the proposed reconstruction,” she added.

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According to Jayalalithaa, in order to effectively allay the apprehensions of the Indian fishermen, the government of India ought to urgently respond to this “provocation”.

She said the Indian government should prevail upon the Sri Lankan Government to first consult the fishermen from Tamil Nadu on this issue and take further steps in this regard only in consultation with all the key stakeholders.

Katchatheevu is a 285-acre island off Rameswaram in the narrow Palk Strait that divides Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka and was once part of Ramanathapuram district.

After agreements in 1974 and 1976 between India and Sri Lanka, the island was ceded to the latter.

The sea near the island is said to be rich in marine life, leading to frequent clashes between Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen.

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