New Delhi: Seven Indian sailors, who have been held hostage by Somali pirates for the last two years, have appealed to the PM, the President, Congress leader Sonia Gandhi and opposition leader Sushma Swaraj seeking their help.
The sailors have narrated their ordeal in a video message uploaded on YouTube and have sought immediate intervention of the government. "Our condition is very bad. I don't know what action the government is taking. We have been here for a very long time now. We are fed up and mentally tensed. Our health is not good. So we are requesting the honourable President of India, honourable Prime Minister, UPA President Mrs Sonia Gandhi and opposition leader Mrs Sushma Swaraj to please save us. Save our life. We want our release. Please help us," appeals a sailor, Bahadur Singh, in the message. The video was reportedly uploaded on the web 45 days ago, but was accessed by the family of one of the hostages yesterday.
One of the sailors, the vessel's Second Officer Bhaskaran Nair Unnikrishnan, is reportedly a diabetic patient and is said to be in urgent need of medicines.
The sailors were taken hostage on September 28, 2010 when their ship, MT Asphalt, was hijacked by Somali pirates. The vessel and eight of its crew members were released on April 15, 2011 after the intervention of the Mumbai-based shipping company. But these seven sailors were held back as hostages.
The hijackers have demanded that the Indian government release 100 Somali pirates in exchange for the release of these seven sailors. But sources say the government is unwilling to release them.
Despite the efforts of Congress MP PJ Kurien, who has been raising this issue repeatedly, there appears to be a complete loss of confidence among the families of the victims. They say that even in the past when six Indian hostages were released in 2011, it was not the government that facilitated their release, but Pakistani Activist Ansar Burney who did the real behind the scenes negotiations.
"Prime Minister told everything is being done... Cabinet Secretary said they are at it, they are doing it, but I have not seen a solution yet. That is the position," said PJ Kurien, MP, Rajya Sabha.
The Director General of shipping has reportedly time and again written to the owners of the ship asking them to negotiate with the pirates. But the shipping company is reportedly unwilling to intervene in the matter as its ship has been released, sources said. This is said to be causing a delay in solving the issue.
At least two of these sailors are from Kerala. The state government has said it had brought up the condition of these hostages at a high-level meeting with the Centre. Sources say that the government of India has assured that the families of the hostages will be paid salaries.
A total of 43 Indians are currently in the custody of Somali pirates. Of these, 15 have spent over two years as hostages.