Indian sailors of MV Suez return home

Indian sailors of MV Suez return home

10-month ordeal ends: Six released, 39 Indians still in captive of Somali pirates

For, the Somali pirates who held Sharma and other sailors onboard the MV Suez captive for 10 months often ended the binges, by mercilessly beating up their hostages.

“Whenever they got drunk, they would beat us, with anything they could get their hands on,” said Sharma, as he recalled his ordeal after arriving in Delhi on Friday –11 days after the hijacked ship was set free on June 13 last.

“They would beat us for long...and at times we felt that it would be better if they would just kill us as that would end the torture,” the young sailor said as he hugged his wife Madhu. Tears rolled down the cheeks of both.

The MV Suez, owned by Egypt’s Red Sea Navigation Company, was hijacked by pirates in the Gulf of Aden on August 2 last year. Its 22-member crew included 11 Egyptians, four Pakistanis, six Indians and one Sri Lankan.  

Their ordeal came to end after Pakistani human rights activist Ansar Burney intervened and negotiated with the pirates for the release of the hijacked ship. Burney’s Karachi-based organization Ansar Burney Trust is believed to have played a key role in arranging the payment of $ 2.1 million to the pirates as ransom for release of the ship and the hostages.

“I don’t know how I should thank Burneyji. It’s for him that my husband is home today. We all will remain indebted to him forever,” Sampa Arya, wife of sailor Ravinder Gulia, told media-persons at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi. Her little son Yugant joined the children of other MV Suez sailors to hold a colourful placard that read: “Thank You Burney Uncle”.

“We also thank people of both India and Pakistan, who always prayed with us for the early release of the ship and safe return of our near and dear ones,” said Arya, who – along with members of families of other hostages – over the past few months ran from pillar to post seeking help from the Indian Government. “As far as the Indian government's role in the release, I don’t want to comment on it,” added Gulia. Both Gulia and Singh hail from Haryana.

Amar Singh, father of sailor Prashant Chauhan, was more candid to express his grudge against the Government in New Delhi. “None from the (Indian) Government contacted us about the release of the ship or the arrival of my son and other sailors. It’s sad,” he said, adding that Burney instead was constantly in touch with him.

New Delhi, however, claimed that it had done its bit and Indian embassy in Cairo was in touch with Egyptian owner of MV Suez. Officials, however, pointed out that the Indian Government could not have played any role in payment of ransom; as such a move would have made all sailors from the country lucrative targets for piracy.

Food was also scarce for the sailors during their captivity. “Some days we just got water. We used to get boiled rice, spaghetti and potato once a week,” recalled Sharma.

The MV Suez sailors were brought to Karachi on Thursday by Pakistan Navy warship PNS Zulfiqar, which had picked them up from the waters off Oman. The MV Suez later sunk somewhere off the coast of Oman as it ran out of fuel.

The Indian sailors flew from Karachi to Dubai and then to Delhi on Friday. “What we thought would never happen has happened. Our nightmare was truly over. I don’t have words to express how happy I am,” said Chauhan.

The release of MV Suez brought down the number of Indian sailors in the captivity of Somali pirates to 39.

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