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Political row in India over RTI report on Indira Gandhi’s ceding of Kachchatheevu to Sri Lanka

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi slammed the Congress party on Sunday over the Katchatheevu island controversy, following a Right To Information (RTI) report revealing the decision of the then-Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi’s government, to hand over the strategic island of Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka in 1974.

Describing the revelation as “eye-opening and startling,” PM Modi accused the grand old party of weakening the country’s integrity and interests.

PM Modi dubbed it a “callous” decision and also said that the handover of Katchatheevu by the Congress government has angered every Indian.

“This has angered every Indian and reaffirmed in people’s minds. We can’t ever trust Congress. Weakening India’s unity, integrity, and interests has been Congress’ way of working for 75 years and counting,” PM Modi wrote on X.

Eye opening and startling!

New facts reveal how Congress callously gave away #Katchatheevu.

This has angered every Indian and reaffirmed in people’s minds- we can’t ever trust Congress!

Weakening India’s unity, integrity and interests has been Congress’ way of working for…

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 31, 2024

BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi claimed that the decision of the then Congress government at the Centre has led to the capture and imprisonment of Tamil Nadu fishermen by Lankans as they at times wander to the island, which is only 25 km off their state’s coast, and are arrested.

The island was with India till 1975, he said. Tamil Nadu fishermen used to go there earlier but the agreement India signed with Lanka under the Indira Gandhi government barred them from doing so, he added.

Unfortunately, neither the DMK nor the Congress is raising the issue but Modi is due to his commitment to the issues pertaining to the country and its people, he said.

PM Modi’s tweet also prompted a response from the Congress party with its leader Sandeep Dikshit saying, “The problem with the PM is he makes statements without any references. If any agreement like this was made, we should know what it was… Secondly, what PM was doing for 9 years then? If he was in a position of this information, why was the PM quiet about it all this while? These are selective pieces of propaganda that they fake out. It is all because elections are going on in Tamil Nadu. All the surveys show the BJP will be badly smashed in Tamil Nadu.”

About Katchatheevu Island row

Katchatheevu Island, located between Rameswaram (India) and Sri Lanka, was traditionally used by both Sri Lankan and Indian fishermen.

The documents, acquired by Tamil Nadu BJP state president K Annamalai through an RTI application, revealed Sri Lanka’s persistent efforts to claim 1.9 square kilometers of land approximately 20 kilometers from the Indian shore.

Despite its small size, Sri Lanka pursued this claim tenaciously, while New Delhi contested it for decades before eventually acquiescing.

Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, pressed its claim right after Independence, stating that the Indian Navy (then Royal Indian Navy) could not conduct exercises on the island without its permission. In October 1955, the Ceylon Air Force held its exercise on the island.

The report also cites first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s comments on the issue, a source of dispute between India and Lanka, that he would have no hesitation in giving up claims on the island.

In 1974, then prime minister Indira Gandhi accepted Katchatheevu as Sri Lankan territory under the “Indo-Sri Lankan Maritime agreement”. The 1974 Agreement regarding historic waters between Sri Lanka and India in the Palk Strait and the Palk Bay formally confirmed Sri Lanka’s sovereignty over the Island.

Source: Times of India

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