“Centre unwilling to take responsibility for the safety of our children”

The rising tension with Pakistan is clearly no deterrent for parents of the 17 Indian crew members on board chemical tanker MT Royal Grace — hijacked on March 2 last near Oman by Somali pirates — and they have now written to Pakistani human and civil rights activist Ansar Burney seeking his intervention to help rescue their children.

Speaking to The Hindu from Kerala, K. Chandran (whose son is held hostage) said: “We last heard from the pirates on December 30 and they threatened to cut-off all contacts with us in case no positive response comes form the Indian government. The government, on the other hand, is not willing to commit and take responsibility for the safety of our children. Now caught between the devil and the deep sea, we have approached Mr. Burney seeking his help.”

(Mr. Burney had played a key role in negotiating with Somali pirates and raising money for the release of hostages, including Indians and Pakistanis, in June 2011.)

“We are not worried about diplomatic relations between the two countries or the border tension, we just want to hear some positive news about our children. We just want some hope of seeing them alive again,” he added.

The group of parents from Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab had earlier appealed to the Centre to intervene and rescue their wards and even staged a sit-in at the Shipping Ministry here.

Stating that they and their children feel totally abandoned and helpless, Mr. Chandran said: “The owner of the ship has abandoned us and the pirates are asking for a ransom of over Rs. 1.5 million which we just cannot raise. The Indian government has not given us any assurance; so now desperate to help our children we have approached the Pakistani activist. We are hopeful that he will understand our plight and intervene on our behalf.”

Susheel Kumar, whose brother Saurav Kumar is being held, said: “Since March last year we have approached and pleaded with several senior officials of the External Affairs Ministry, Defence Ministry and Shipping Ministry but there have been no results. We have been just asked to wait. Do the lives of these 17 young Indians mean nothing to the government?”

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