Parents of missing sailors along with office-bearers of an action council formed to push for investigation called for an immediate initiation of an international inquiry

This Saturday will mark five years since the disappearance of Sanaj Gangadharan, a sailor from Kozhikode.

Around the same time in 2009, the parents of another sailor, Pradeep Raj, received the dreaded telegram from Marlow Navigation, the company that recruited him, saying that he was missing while his ship was sailing in the Pacific Ocean from Panama to China.

Five years, and there is still no sign of a fair probe. These traumatised parents continue to knock on all doors, right from the President and Prime Minister of the country.

During a press conference held here on Thursday, the parents of the missing sailors along with office-bearers of an action council formed to push for investigation called for an immediate initiation of an international inquiry.

Barely two weeks before he was reported missing, Sanaj joined MT Ratna Urvi owned by the Kolkata-based India Steamship Company as the fourth engineer.

The vessel was, at the time of his disappearance, docked at the Fujaira port in the UAE.

The response of the captain was that a thorough search was conducted and the only clue that emerged was Sanaj’s footwear on the deck.

The family filed a habeas corpus with the Kerala High Court which ordered an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The report they prepared concluded that Sanaj committed suicide by jumping into the sea because he was suffering from acute mental stress stemming from financial issues.

Charges refuted

His parents contested these claims saying he was financially sound. With the salary of Rs.1.5 lakh he was earning a month, he could have easily paid off the only debt he had — the education loan of Rs.1.75 lakh. Seeking clarity desperately, C.V. Gangadharan and M.P. Shobana, his parents, said, “If he is dead, then we need proof to know for sure.”

Sanaj’s and Pradeep Raj’s families were strangers until they found this unfortunate link and began fighting together.

Parents of Pradeep Raj, Nagesh Chettiyar and Chandramathi Amma, narrated a case uncannily similar. The reason cited for their sailor-son’s disappearance was also suicide caused by mental stress.

He was an ambitious boy, his father said, adding he even used to work overtime to rise higher up the ranks. The report prepared by the ship’s captain did not even consider other possibilities despite there being no proof of his committing suicide.

K. Kunhikrishna Master, a family friend and action committee vice-chairman, said during the press conference that there was foul play involved and that they had heard of similar cases from Alappuzha and Chennai.

They also asked other families who went through a similar trauma to come forward and speak their minds.