Thirty three Tamil Nadu fishermen were arrested by Sri Lankan Navy in separate incidents while fishing near Katchatheevu, an islet in the Palk Strait, police and fisheries officials on Sunday said.
The arrest comes days after Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa ordered the release of all detained Indian fishermen in a goodwill gesture ahead of his visit to the swearing in of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 26.
Sri Lankan Navy personnel arrested four fishermen of Rameswaram on Sunday morning after they got stranded near Katchatheevu when their boat developed a technical snag, 'Q' branch police inspector Kennedy and Pamban fishermen organisation functionary U Arulanandam said. The fishermen and the boat have been taken to Talaimannar.
On the previous night, 29 fishermen from Rameswaram were arrested by the Lankan Navy near the same area. They were part of a group of fishermen, who set out in 727 boats from here, M Gopinath, Rameswaram Fisheries Assistant Director said.
They also seized six mechanised boats, he said, adding, the fishermen and the boats have been taken to Talaimannar.
The Lankan Navy allegedly damaged the fishing nets of about 20 boats and threw them into the sea and also asked them not to fish in the area, Sesuraja, Rameswaram fishermen president said.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa is scheduled to meet Modi in Delhi on June 3 in her first official engagement after she boycotted the swearing-in to protest Rajapaksa's presence at the event. She had earlier dubbed as "unfortunate" the invitation to the Sri Lankan President.
Talks between India and Sri Lanka on the fishermen issue had ended in a deadlock early last month and negotiators are scheduled to meet again this month.
The Tamil Nadu government had been demanding release of all Indian fishermen before the bilateral talks could resume to resolve the fishermen issue.
Sri Lanka had taken into custody over 160 fishermen despite agreements reached at talks held in Chennai in January.
Katchatheevu was ceded to Sri Lanka by India in 1974.
This is the first arrest of Indian fishermen since the Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa ordered the release of all Indian fishermen in Sri Lankan custody last month. Rajapaksa's act was a goodwill gesture ahead of the swearing-in of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.