The innocent “invaders” of the sea

The native fishermen who cross the invisible maritime borders, in search of livelihood often end up in prisons of the neighbouring country, separated from their family, without being able to communicate to the outside world for several years, only because they tried to earn a living.  In spite of recurrent appeals from several humanitarians and organisations the seizing, protracted imprisonments and custody deaths of indigent fishermen continues, recent victim being Rameesh Taba Sosa who died in the Indian custody last month.

Pakistan frees 68 Indian fishermen held for trespassing | Arab News

           Pakistan has around 275 Indian fishermen and India has 97 Pakistani fishermen in custody as per reports. These fishermen often don’t cross the borders deliberately, many of them know the consequences of crossing these territorial waters quite well, but the absence of any physical boundaries, lack of novel technology to keep a track of their location and the inability to read signs and symbols due to illiteracy are the major reasons of this problem. Even after their arrest due to the lack of proper information transmission, the news remains unknown to their relatives and they are often considered dead. The lethargic bureaucratic machinery causes further delay. Officials fail to act promptly time and again, while the grieving family members keep knocking every door for help.  Most of these detainees are the sole source of livelihood and the only bread winners of their family, thus their sudden disappearance will put family members in deep dilemma and grave poverty, children are at times forced to drop out schools and star working in order to earn a living. The pandemic has exacerbated their plight.  Lengthy legal procedures and negligence of the officers leads to long years of suffering and pain of the innocent fishermen. Many of them are not even provided proper treatment in the jails and suffer both mental trauma and hunger. In some cases, even after their death, the family have to wait for much time to receive their mortal remains and perform their last rites. All these inhuman acts illuminate grave human rights violation.

The historic tension between the two countries have put the lives of people on either side of the borders into intense trouble and suffering. Recent boundary disputes make the maritime trespassing a serious and complex crime. Still, putting humanitarian causes first both countries must come to a mutual agreement. The judicial committee formed in 2008 did create tremendous changes, but it has ceased to meet since 2013. Both the nations must try to resuscitate it soon to lessen this plight. Efforts must be made to amply caution the fishermen about the presence of boundaries. If arrested their release to be made as soon as possible, any unnecessary delay must be avoided completely. It should be made sure that they are treated properly as inmates and their families must be supported fully till their return. It is the moral responsibility of the nations to confirm that the lives of innocent citizens are never put at stake.

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