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Families at sea over hijacked Indians

They've postponed weddings and will not celebrate Diwali and Christmas till the crewmen of cargo vessels MV Iceberg 1 and Asphalt Venture, hijacked in 2010, return home

The cargo ships hijacked by Somali pirates in a space of six months, last year, have not been released yet, and the families of the crew-members are now banking on a miracle to see their sons.



Mohan Singh Mohite carries a picture of his son Ganesh Mohite, a captive
seaman aboard MV Iceberg 1. PIC/ bipin kokate


Somali pirates hijacked MV Iceberg 1 on March 29, 2010, about 10 nautical miles from Yemen. The pirates also hijacked MV Asphalt Venture in September 2011.

A third ship, MV Suez was hijacked the same month, but the pirates released the 22 crew-members in June 2011 after receiving a ransom of $1.2 million. Part of the ransom was raised through donations from Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the families of the 13 Indians on both the captive ships have knocked on various doors to secure the release of their sons, but to no avail.

The pirates have reportedly demanded $8 million to release MV Iceberg 1. The vessel is carrying 24 crew-members from countries like Yemen, India, Ghana, Sudan, Pakistan, and the Philippines.

Dadaso Bhairu Jadhav's son Sunil Jadhav is one of the seamen captive on MV Iceberg 1. A Satara resident, Jadhav recounts his 17-month ordeal.

"September 22 was Sunil's birthday. He turned 25 this year. We thought he will be back before that and we will celebrate his birthday. He is in the custody of pirates for the past 17 months. We have approached everyone � the PM, the CM, the Foreign Minister, the Lok Sabha speaker, and even the Governor, but it has been in vain. I earn Rs 5,000. How am I supposed to pay the ransom to get him back? All my money goes in visiting government offices to find out the whereabouts of my son," he said.

Others like Purshottam Tiwari have postponed family weddings till their son returns. The father of Chief Officer in Command Dheeraj Tiwari said, "I have postponed my daughter's wedding. Dheeraj is our only son. We cannot have this wedding without him. Only his return will bring the joy and celebration back into our lives and our home."

In a similar vein, 24 year-old Ganesh Mohite's father Man Singh Mohite has refused to partake in any celebrations during this festive season. The father of the captive seaman aboard MV Iceberg 1 said, "We hope that we'll get to celebrate Diwali this year round."

On October 27, 2010, Wagdi Akram, one of the crew-members, committed suicide by jumping overboard.
Meanwhile, the families of the hijacked crew-members of MV Asphalt Venture are languishing as well. In April 2011, the pirates double-crossed the families and released only eight Indian crew-members, although a ransom was paid to secure the release of all 15 Indians on board. The vessel was hijacked on its way to South Africa from Kenya on September 28, 2010. The pirates were paid millions of dollars, but kept back seven crew-members at the last minute, asking that the Indian government release 100 Somali pirates in exchange for the remaining men.

The Indian Navy and Coast Guard arrested at least 120 Somali pirates in four different operations earlier this year.

Mercy Joseph George, wife of 48 year-old Joseph George, an engineer aboard MV Asphalt Venture said, "I spoke with him two weeks ago. He said that they are being kept in a dense forest, and he has to make his own food.

I hope he will return by Christmas. After the recent blast, I was worried, but the officials assured me that everything was fine." A massive bomb went off in a truck in Mogadishu that killed 70 killed and left several injured, last week.

Captain D K Singh of Seamens Union said, "The case of Asphalt Venture is worse, as ransom was paid but few Indians were kept back. Now the ball is in the court of Indian government, which is in direct negotiations with the pirates."

Director General of Shipping S B Agnihotri told Sunday MiD DAY, "Efforts are on to rescue the Indians on both ships. This has been taken up as a priority. We hope some positive developments will occur in the coming days."

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