136 TN fishermen return home from Lanka

Nagapattinam: The 136 fishermen from Tamil Nadu, who were detained in Sri Lanka for allegedly poaching in the island nation`s waters, returned here on Saturday.

Sri Lankan authorities handed over the fishermen, who travelled in their own trawlers to Indian authorities at the International Maritime Boundary Line, officials said.

The Indian Navy then escorted them to Nagapattinam Port.

The fishermen came in 25 trawlers.

Family members and relatives of the fishermen had gathered in the port in large numbers and it was an emotional reunion for them.

Nagapattinam MP AKS Vijayan and MLA Marimuthu welcomed them with shawls.

The fishermen, belonging to various hamlets of Nagapattinam, Karaikal, Pudukottai and Rameswaram, thanked the central and state governments for their swift action in securing their release.

Of the 136 Indian fishermen, 112 were caught last Tuesday by a group of Lankan fishermen and handed over to the police there.

Following their detention, India had conveyed deep concern to the Lankan government and sought their release. The Sri Lankan government released the fishermen yesterday along with their boats following a court order.

The detention sparked off protests in Tamil Nadu with DMK workers, including MPS, staging demonstrations.

Opposition leader and AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa had demanded "stronger steps" from the Centre on the issue of attacks on Indian fishermen allegedly by Lankan Navy and demanded that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh talk to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and warn him of "consequences" if attacks recurred.