BINDU SHAJAN PERAPPADAN
The ship was hijacked on March 2 near Oman by Somali pirates last year
Beginning their indefinite protest in front of Transport Bhavan here on Monday, parents and family members of the 17 Indian crew members on board chemical tanker MT Royal Grace ‚Äî which was hijacked on March 2 near Oman by Somali pirates last year ‚Äì have said that this is a ‚Äúdo or die situation for them now.‚Äù ‚ÄúWe have been practically begging the government to help us for over a year now and we have not even got a definite assurance about the safety of our boys. This time if the government does not relent we will start a hunger strike here. If the government is okay about allowing our children to die on the hijacked ship we will be forced to do the same here in Delhi,‚Äô‚Äô said Sushil Kumar, whose 23-year-old brother Saurav Kumar is among the kidnapped crew.
Stating that it was the ‚Äúwe don‚Äôt care‚Äù attitude of the government that had forced them to take to the streets, Mr. Kumar added: ‚ÄúIn fact last December, government officials met us and told us to go back home and pray for our loved ones. They even sanctioned money to each family. We don‚Äôt want the money we just want an assurance from the government that our loved ones are safe and that the government is working actively to bring them back.‚Äô‚Äô Ainul Haque from Allahabad, whose 26-year-old brother Shahid Babu is also among those kidnapped, said: ‚ÄúThe last contact that we had with Shahid and the others who are being held hostage was in November-December when the Somalian threatened to kill all the Indian hostages unless we paid them the ransom.‚Äô‚Äô ‚ÄúWe now left with no choice but to gather here and demand that the government wake up to our plight and give us some positive news about our family members,‚Äô‚Äô added Haque. ‚ÄúThe owner of the ship has abandoned us and the pirates are asking for a ransom of over Rs. 1.5 million which we don‚Äôt have.‚Äù
Mundresh, who is also protesting for the release of her brother, said: ‚ÄúWe feel helpless now and when we get news about our loved ones having no food, water and sanitation facilities and being forced to endure extreme heat we fear the worst for them. We yet again appeal to the government to take a sympathetic view and help us.‚Äô‚Äô