Joining issue with his arch rival and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, DMK president M Karunanidhi today said the tiny islet of Katchatheevu was ceded to Sri Lanka by the Indira Gandhi government in 1974 despite strong protest from the then ruling DMK.
“The DMK government had expressed strong opposition to the government’s decision to cede Katchatheevu to Sri Lanka.
Despite that, it was ceded and upon our insistence various provisions on traditional rights of fishing, drying nets and pilgrimage were added,” he said in a letter to partymen.
But those provisions were “lost” during the Emergency, he said, a day after Jayalalithaa criticised him on the islet issue in the state assembly. Citing the Berubari judgement in the Supreme Court in 1960, she said “had (DMK president) M Karunanidhi followed this in 1974 as Chief Minister, Katchatheevu would not have been ceded to Sri Lanka. He failed to do it.”
Besides, Karunanidhi said, his party had also adopted a resolution in its General Council asking Gandhi to ensure India’s rights on the islet were upheld while DMK MPs expressed their opposition in Parliament.
In fact, when the Centre had announced of its decision “suddenly” in June 1974, an all-party meeting was convened and a resolution drafted which, Karunanidhi said, AIADMK did not support.
Karunanidhi claimed Jayalalithaa as Chief Minister had written to the then Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao in September, 1994 saying “the ceding of this tiny islet to the island nation (Sri Lanka) had been done by the government of India in the interest of better bilateral relations.”
The DMK chief said Jayalalithaa had in 2003 written to the then Prime Minister A B Vajpayee seeking the islet to be taken on “lease in perpetuity” as the best possible solution and that “Sri Lanka’s sovereignty” over the islet could be upheld at the same time.
Karunanidhi asked what efforts Jayalalithaa took in her three terms as Chief Minister from 1991-96, 2001-06 and from May 2011 to retrieve it.