Two former hostages, who were held captive by Somali pirates, have recounted their horrendous experience, saying they remember it as their ‚Äúworst nightmare‚Äù. The sailors have also expressed sympathy for the 24 Indian crewmembers aboard the MV Cotton that was hijacked by Nigerian pirates on July 15.
Jitendra Saw (26) from Bihar and Swapnil Jadhav (27) were aboard MT Royal Grace and Iceberg I respectively when Somali pirates hijacked them near the east African coast near the Gulf of Aden. While MT Royal Grace that was hijacked on March 3 in 2012 was released on March 8 this year, the Iceberg I remained in captivity for an endless 32 months after it was hijacked on March 19 in 2010. The hostages were finally released on December 23 last year. Revisiting the horror, Mr Saw said, ‚ÄúThe experience was crushing and everyday seemed like our last. We were thrashed, tied, threatened and shot every time our captors felt the ransom money wasn‚Äôt coming.‚Äù
There were a total of 21 crewmembers including 17 Indians, a Bangladeshi, a Pakistani and two Nigerians aboard the MT Royal Grace. ‚ÄúOne of the Nigerians, an engineer, died due to a heart attack on March 19 after being hit by the pirates. There were times when we went without food for days after the pirates ran out of their own supplies. They gave us inedible chapati like bread and plain rice replete with small stones. We always lived in fear of being killed,‚Äù said Mr Saw. The sailor is currently in Mumbai and looking for a job with another shipping company.
‚ÄúWe, however, suspect that our company, Snow White Energy, did not pay the ransom for our release. The worst part is that we have been paid only for three months and are still to get the remainder of our salary,‚Äù said Mr Saw. Mr Jadhav, from Karad in Satara district, remembers the horror when pirates chopped off a crewmember‚Äôs ear. ‚ÄúThey often directed their frustration at us when the talks with the company failed. We also lost contact with our families after one-and-a-half years,‚Äù he said.
Mr Jadhav also said that the officers bore the brunt of the pirates‚Äô thrashings. ‚ÄúWe were spared on most occasions. The sentries deployed to guard us were relatively flexible unlike their commanders,‚Äù he observed. The Iceberg I was released during a military operation by the Somali Army on December 10. Mr Jadhav said he is still affected by loud noises and crowded places due to the residual effects of the traumatic experience.