'Can't Ever Trust Congress': PM Modi Reacts To Report On How India Ceded Katchatheevu Island To Sri Lanka In 1974 – News18

Curated By: News Desk
Last Updated: March 31, 2024, 11:27 IST
New Delhi, India
Eye opening and startling! New facts reveal how Congress callously gave away #Katchatheevu, PM Modi said (Image: PTI)
The Congress party has weakened India’s unity, integrity and interests, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Sunday, reacting to a media report that detailed what transpired in New Delhi’s power corridors in the build-up to the controversial handing over of the disputed Katchatheevu island by Indira Gandhi’s government to present-day Sri Lanka in 1974.
PM Modi was joined by a bevy of leaders of the Centre’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who shared the link to the Times of India article on X (previously Twitter) and admonished the Congress for losing control over the island in Palk Strait. Some of them highlighted views by India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who was quoted in the article as saying he did not give much importance to the island and “would have no hesitation” giving up claims over it.
“Eye opening and startling! New facts reveal how Congress callously gave away #Katchatheevu,” PM Modi said.
“This has angered every Indian and reaffirmed in people’s minds- we can’t ever trust Congress!” he added in the same post, sharing a link to the article that pointed to indecision on the Centre’s part leading to the hading over of the island to Sri Lanka by Indira Gandhi’s government in 1974.
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
Narayanan Thirupathy, a senior BJP leader in Tamil Nadu, took potshots at both the Congress and the southern state’s ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), its political ally. The DMK was in power when the handing over of the 1.9-square-kilometre island about 20km from the Indian shore happened and in the run-up to it. Thirupathy said the decision to give up claims over the tiny island hurt Tamil Nadu’s fishermen community.
As the controversy snowballed, a Tamil Nadu Congress spokesperson issued a rebuttal, stressing that his party is committed to the welfare of the state.
He alleged that BJP leaders were trying to divide India through their “petty politics”.
The controversy came just weeks ahead of the first round of voting in the seven-phase Lok Sabha elections, with both the BJP and the Opposition alliance involving tye Congress and the DMK eyeing an impressive performance in southern India.
“I attach no importance at all to this little island and I would have no hesitation in giving up our claim on it,” said then PM Jawaharlal Nehru.Read how the Nehru-Gandhi father-daughter duo ceded the strategic #Katchatheevu island to Sri Lanka.https://t.co/44p9N6m1a2
— Kangana Ranaut (Modi Ka Parivar) (@KanganaTeam) March 31, 2024
The TOI report cited documents related to the isle, which were reportedly obtained by Tamil Nadu BJP chief K Annamalai through an RTI application. The documents detail how Sri Lanka, then Ceylon, pressed its claim on the piece of land right after Independence when it said the Indian Navy (then Royal Indian Navy) could not conduct exercises on the island without its permission.
New Delhi contested Sri Lanka’s claim for decades only to acquiesce finally in 1974. The documents bring forward the indecision of previous governments over the matter.
It cited a minute by first PM Jawaharlal Nehru on May 10, 1961, who dismissed the issue as inconsequential.
“I would’ve no hesitation in giving up claims to the island…I attach no importance at all to this little island and I would have no hesitation in giving up our claims to it. I do not like this pending indefinitely and being raised again in Parliament,” the TOI report quoted Nehru as saying.
Nehru’s minute is reportedly part of a note prepared by then commonwealth secretary Y D Gundevia, which the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) shared as a backgrounder with the informal Consultative Committee of Parliament in 1968.
“The legal aspects of the question are highly complex. The question has been considered in some detail in this ministry. No clear conclusions can be drawn as to the strength of either India’s or Ceylon’s claim to sovereignty,” the ministry said in the backgrounder at the time.
However, the then attorney general M C Setalvad, in 1960, opined that India had a stronger claim on the island formed by a volcanic eruption.
Referring to the zamindari rights given by the East India Company to Raja of Ramnad (Ramnathpuram) over the islet fishery and other resources around it, Setalvad wrote, “The matter is by no means clear or free from difficulty but on the assessment of the whole evidence it appears to me that the balance lies in concluding that the sovereignty of India was and is in India.”
This continued from 1875 to 1948 and was vested in the State of Madras following the abolition of zamindari rights. However, the Raja of Ramnad continued to exercise his zamindari rights independently, without having to pay taxes to Sri Lanka.
In June 1974, the decision to hand over Katchatheevu was conveyed to then Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi by then foreign secretary Kewal Singh.
Singh mentioned the zamindari rights of the Raja of Ramnad (Ramanathapuram) and the failure of Sri Lanka to show evidence to prove its claim of holding Katchatheevu.
However, the foreign secretary also said that Sri Lanka had a “very determined position” on Katchatheevu and cited “records” showing the key island to be a part of the kingdom of Jaffnapatnam, Dutch and British maps, TOI reported.
The Katchatheevu Issue
With Lok Sabha Election 2024 around the corner, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is seeking to make the ceding of Katchatheevu (meaning ‘barren island’ in Tamil), a 285-acre uninhabited isle, an electoral issue to take on INDIA bloc partners DMK and Congress, for it happened during their rule.
Another agreement, signed during the Emergency in the absence of a government in Tamil Nadu, clearly demarcated areas where fishermen on either side are disallowed to conduct their activity. The agreement between India and Sri Lanka on the maritime boundary between both countries in the Gulf of Mannar and the Bay of Bengal was signed on March 23, 1976.
Tamil Nadu’s fishermen have been frequently facing conflict with Lankan authorities in their usual fishing activity around Katchatheevu.


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