SOS sent out by captive to Gujarat CMO helps bring ordeal to an end

Intervention by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi helped rescue some 135 tourists in Lakshadweep after they were held hostage by the local people, according to an official spokesman.

The spokesman said here on Sunday that Mr. Modi had alerted the Union Home Ministry about the hostage drama which led to their release.

According to the spokesman, the tourists — including over 30 children and some government officials — came from various parts of the mainland. They were holidaying when they were “captured” by some local people in Kalpeni Island. The captors were using the tourists to highlight grievances against the local administration. About 35 tourists hailed from Gujarat.

‘Ill-treated

No communication network was functioning except the BSNL's and even that briefly. A tourist from Gujarat managed to send a brief message to the Chief Minister's Office in Gandhinagar, informing it they had been kidnapped and were being “ill-treated.” The captors initially did not allow any food or water even for the children.

On being apprised of the hostage situation, Mr. Modi immediately called up Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and requested his intervention. Simultaneously, he also directed Chief Secretary A.K. Joti, and Gujarat's Resident Commissioner in New Delhi, Bharat Lal, to take up the matter with the other officials in the Home Ministry and the local administration of Lakshadweep to extend all possible assistance to the hostages.

Mr. Joti contacted Lakshadweep administrator Amar Nath while Mr. Lal spoke to the Additional Secretary in the Union Home Ministry who co-ordinated the rescue and relief operations with Lakshadweep Collector Vasant Kumar.

Mr. Kumar, with the help of the local police and other officials, held negotiations with the captors. After the administration promised the locals that their problems would be solved, the hostages were released. The tourists then reached the main island from where they left for home.

A Surat-based medical practitioner, who along with his wife and child, was among the hostages, informed his parents here that the captors gave them food and water later in the night when the negotiations were in progress and also turned friendly