After the outlaws fixed a deadline of November 30 or else their wards will “start drowning one by one”

Parents of 17 Indian crew members on board chemical tanker MT Royal Grace, which was hijacked on March 2 near Oman by Somali pirates, got a phone call from the pirates’ negotiator this past weekend which they had been dreading all along — “pay up by November 30 or [else] we will start drowning your children one by one.”

“The negotiator said this would be their last contact call,” said a shaken K. Chandran, whose son Midhun is among those kidnapped.

The group of parents from Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Punjab appealed to the government on Monday to intervene and rescue their children.

“The owner of the ship has abandoned us and the pirates are asking for a ransom of over Rs. 1.5 million which we don’t have. Now our only hope is intervention by the Indian government, which we hope will speak on behalf of the parents to the pirates to rescue our children. In his last call, our son told us that in case we don’t arrange for some sort of immediate help, this could possibly be the last time we are speaking to him,” said Mr. Chandran.

Other parents sitting on dharna outside the Ministry of Shipping office share the same story. “We too have been told that in case there is no immediate forward movement by the Indian government on the issue, the hostages will be killed one by one,” said Susheel Kumar, brother of Saurav Kumar, who is being held hostage.

“Our near and dear ones have been abducted and held hostage by Somali pirates for over nine months now. We have approached senior officials of the External Affairs Ministry, Defence Ministry and now Shipping Ministry, but we are yet to get even a ray of hope from anywhere. Does the lives of 17 young Indians mean nothing to the government” asked Susheel.

The ship was on its way to Nigeria with 22 crew members, including the 17 Indians, on March 2 when it was taken over by pirates near Oman.

“We heard from our children in May and now this call has left us frightened,” said Prem Singh, father of Arun Pal from Rajasthan.

“My son told me that water, food and fuel for the ship were in short supply and that they [hostages] were forced to endure extreme heat. It seems that the Indian government is not concerned about our problem and has told us that this is a private matter and that they will not intervene. We now request the people of the country to help us,” he said.

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