Kin of fishermen languishing in Iranian jail narrate plight
U. Muthu, a mother of five, has been waiting for her husband’s call for months. “My husband spoke to me over phone from Saudi Arabia at 11 a.m. on December 9 before setting out for fishing and since then I have been waiting for his call,” she says, wiping her tears.
Such tales of woe poured in from other families, whose members have been lodged in a jail in Iran for the past six months. Nineteen Indian fishermen — 16 from Tamil Nadu and three from Kerala — who had gone to Saudi Arabia on fishing contracts, had set out to sea for fishing from the Saudi port city of Jubail in December last, when they were arrested by the Iranian authorities for allegedly fishing in their waters.
Most of the 16 fishermen from Tamil Nadu hailed from the coastal hamlets of Thirupalaikudi, Morepannai, Mullimunai and Karankadu in this backward district and a visit to these hamlets by The Hindu and meeting with the family members revealed a pathetic picture. The lack of communication with the detained fishermen has left a deep sense of negative impact in their psyche.
As some of those in Saudi Arabia called them up and said the fishermen would be released on June 26, there are heightened expectations among the family members amid a sense of helplessness.
G.Rasakili (60), mother of Muthu Dharmaiah (23), one of the jailed fishermen was lying down at her tsunami dwelling unit at Mullimunai, a hamlet on the east coast gazing at the roof. Her eldest son Raja (38) died two weeks ago and the youngest son jailed in Iran was not aware of the tragedy in the family, she says.
Tears rolled down from her cheeks as she asks whether she would get back her son, who is in the jail. Dharmaiah went to Saudi Arabia three-and-a-half years ago and was planning to return home after the fishing season, when he was arrested.
Also pathetic is the living condition of Muthu (35), wife of Umaselvam from Thirupalaikudi, another hamlet on the east coast. There was no money from her husband for the past six months and she is taking care of her five children — four boys and a girl and aged mother-in-law by going for ‘100 days work’ (under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment guarantee scheme). Her husband had been employed in Saudi Arabia for past 20 years. This was his sixth or seventh visit but the family did not seem to be benefited much by his earnings. “I pledged my jewellery for Rs 50,000 to admit children in schools,” she says.
It has been an agonising wait for Sudhamayil (25), wife of Mayakrishnan (30) from Thirupalaikudi, as she could not share the good news of the family blessed with a son. She was pregnant when her husband left for Saudi Arabia in September last and her five-month-old son is yet to see his father, she says. She has no idea where her husband is, but hoping for his release at the earliest.
It was a maiden visit to Kali Kannadasan (22) from Thirupalaikudi and it turned out to be disastrous. His brother was already in Saudi Arabia and he went in November last only to get arrested after couple of fishing ventures. Karupayee, his mother, regrets sending him after borrowing Rs 2 lakh. She recently underwent surgery for appendicitis and she could not convey to her son she recovered well, she says.
“It’s enough if I hear my son’s voice once..let them keep him in jail, but I want to listen to his voice once,” says Kanagavalli (52) mother of Mayapandi from Mullimunai.
S.Sasikala’s eyes welled with tears as she is holding her one-month-old male child in her lap at her mother’s place in Thirupalaikudi. The young mother is anxiously looking for the release of her husband Sayibu Mapillai, hailing from Morepannai, a coastal hamlet.
Almost all the family members have been assured by the employers and fellow fishermen in Saudi Arabia that the arrested fishermen would be released on July 26, when the six months imprisonment is ending.
Reports suggested that the Iranian authorities have said the fishermen could be freed only if each of them paid a penalty of $ 5,750, but the family members here were not aware of the penalty provision.
They have resolved to meet the District Collector here after seeing the outcome on Wednesday.