A year on, no news of sailors abducted by Somali pirates
Tuesday, March 05, 2013
They try their best to conceal their emotions but it's hard to
hold back the tears. When we met Mehtab Jahan from Allahabad, she was
sitting on a footpath outside Transport Bhawan in the national capital
along with a few other families.
All of them are from different
parts of the country; yet, they are united in their anxiety. Anxiety
over the safe return of their young relatives, all taken hostage by
pirates off the coast of Somalia last March.
There are 17
Indians on board MT Royal Grace, most of them first-time sailors.
Negotiations for their release were in progress till mid-December last
year, the last time most families spoke to their relatives held hostage.
The pirates had given a deadline of December 20, 2012 for their demands
to be met - there has been no contact with them since.
Mehtab says, "My son is 27 years old. He has two little
children who miss him and are constantly asking about their father.
Nothing I say can reassure them."
Lokdass Sahu's son is only 25
years old. It's his first time at sea. Sahu, who hails from
Chhatisgarh, last spoke to his son in June 2012. There has been no
contact after that. "We spoke to him through the negotiator," he told
NDTV, "he said things were very difficult and that the pirates
constantly threatened to kill the hostages. But, apart from assurances
from the government, we have nothing else."
Rajesh's brother is
only 24 and works as a cadet on board. He said, "When we meet officers
from the Shipping Ministry, they tell us to go to the Ministry of
External Affairs (MEA). And the MEA tells us to speak to the Shipping
Ministry. The fate of our young boys hangs in balance."
families have camped on the footpath outside Transport Bhawan, which
houses the offices of the Shipping Ministry. Mehtab says, "This time, we
will sit for as long as it takes to get answers. Even if that means we
have to die here."
It's as if life has come to a standstill for
these families. One family member we met said he has to pretend that
everything is normal when he is at home. His parents have a heart
condition and he feels that news of the hijack will only worsen their
condition. When his parents ask after his brother, he says his bond has
been extended and so he's still sailing.
The past year has been
tough on these families to say the least. They have no idea if their
loved ones are safe and have no answers or assurances to take back home.