When will Indian fishworkers be assured of their safety on high seas?

National Fishworkers Forum India, Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace & Democracy condemn firing on Indian fishworkers by Pakistan’s maritime security agency

FishermanImage: Getty Images

The National Fishworkers Forum India (NFF) and the Pakistan India Peoples’ Forum for Peace & Democracy (PIPFPD) have issued a joint statement to condemn the firing on Indian fishworkers by Pakistan’s Maritime Security Agency (PMSA). One of the workers was killed and another injured when PMSA troops converged on two Indian fishing boats on Saturday, November 6, off the coast of Gujarat. The joint statement adds that while the Pakistan government statement claims the victims “were in Pakistan’s territorial waters,” the fishworkers have refuted that. 

The deceased was identified as 32-year-old Sridhar Ramesh Chamre from Maharashtra’s Palghar district. According to news reports, the Porbandar Navi Bandar police have also registered a First Information Report (FIR) against 10 officers of the PMSA. They have been charged under Indian Penal Code sections 302 (murder), 307 (attempt to murder), and 114 (presence of abettor when the offence is committed).

The injured fishworker was identified as Dilip Solanki (34), who according to The Indian Express was the captain of the boat named Jal Pari, and sustained a bullet injury, but is now stated to be out of danger. According to the NFF statement another boat was “taken into custody by PMSA”, while Jal Pari, which was trying to turn away, was fired upon. The boat, however “ managed to return to the Indian coast with 6 crew members and the body of  Shridhar Ramesh Chamre.” 



The PMSA reportedly issued a statement on November 8 and denied “firing on the boat and using lethal weapons against fishworkers.” However NFF states that Shridhar Chamare was “shot in the chest multiple times”. He was the helper on the boat and is survived by his parents, wife and two daughters aged 6 and 8. The NFF and PIPFPD state that they “have consistently demanded a ‘no arrests policy’ of  fishworkers – whose livelihood is based on the sea and have repeatedly warned both the  governments against any lethal action including firing. Yet these incidents continue to happen.”  

Every year, hundreds of Indian and Pakistani fishworkers are arrested by the neighbouring country’s naval armed forces. And every year, some of them are released as confidence-building measures by the governments. Once arrested, these fishworkers can be jailed from four months to a few years.

The Indian government has strongly condemned and taken serious note of the killing of an Indian fisherman by PMSA, reported Mirror Now terming it to be a case of “unprovoked firing.”

According to NFF,, this latest tragedy has put the spotlight back on fishworker arrests by the two countries. “The mechanisms available for faster release of fishworkers are  no longer effective in securing their early release or ensuring that they are not mistreated  in the jails. We have repeatedly requested the release of jailed fishermen…” stated the two organisations adding, “As per the United Nations Convention on Law of Seas (UNCLOS), those who  encroach upon waters, cannot even be arrested, let alone be fired upon by either security  force.” 

The arrest, they say, “takes away the dignity of their work”, and also pushes their families on the brink of poverty as they get very little support from anywhere. 

According to NFF, factors responsible for cross border fishing included “depleting resources in  the Arabian sea as well as the increasing industrialization across the coasts of India.” The statement recalled that “Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made a public announcement way back in September 2013, at Palghar that once elected, his government will end arrests and killing of fishers.”

The NFF and PIPFPD have now asked that the civil society come together and “demand that the Indian and Pakistani  Governments act urgently to adopt a solution to this four decade-old conflict so that not another soul is lost to this mindless violence.”

According to a report in NDTV, as of February 2021, “Pakistan acknowledged that 270 fishermen and 49 civilian prisoners, who are Indians or believed to be Indians, are in their jails” adding that  “there were 77 Pakistan fishermen and 263 Pakistan civilian prisoners in India’s custody, the government had said in the Rajya Sabha.”



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