Rohtak (Haryana): At
their wit's end after appeals to everyone from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh downwards fell on deaf ears, families of four
Indian sailors held captive by Somali pirates have found a saviour
in Pakistani rights activist Ansar Burney, who has performed a
similar role before.
Saying that they were "fed up" with the lethargy of the Indian
officials, the distressed families recently met Burney, a former
Pakistani federal minister for human rights, at a function in
Laadpur village of Haryana's Jhajjar district, about 30 km from
Delhi, and appealed to him to come to their aid.
Burney was being felicitated by the Gulia khap (caste-group
leaders) in the Jhajjar district of Haryana, as he had helped free
some Indian sailors from the clutches of Somali pirates earlier.
Ravinder Gulia, one of those freed, is also a resident of Jhajjar.
"We can no longer believe the hollow assurances offered by union
ministers, political leaders and senior functionaries of the
government. That is why we would urge you, on humanitarian
grounds, to step in and facilitate the release of our kin. You are
the only person who can help us," was the message conveyed to
The relatives said that Somali pirates had hijacked a Dubai-owned
Nigeria-bound vessel MT Royal Grace on March 2 last year and taken
22 crew members, including 17 Indians, hostage. Three Nigerians, a
Pakistani and a Bangladeshi were also on board.
"My younger brother, Sourav Kumar, 23, is among the 17 Indians
kept hostage by Somali pirates. They seek a ransom of Rs. 7.5
crore. We met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, External Affairs
Minister S.M. Krishna, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi and
Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj urging them to intervene and
free my brother and the others, but despite their assurances, they
appear to have washed their hands of the matter," Mundresh of
Meerut in Uttar Pradesh told IANS, expressing confidence in
Lokdass Sahoo and his wife Kalyani, from near Raipur in
Chhattisgarh, said: "We have done numerous rounds of union
ministers in Delhi over the last two months seeking the safe
release of our son Pritam Sahu (25), but we have got no help."
A middle-age woman, Mehtab, from Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh said:
"My son Shahid Babu made a call some months ago and informed us
that he along with 24 crew members have been held hostage by
Ansar Burney said: "The kin of four Indian sailors had met me
during the International Sadhbhawna function at Laadpur village.
They sought my cooperation and help for the safe release of their
kin after narrating the whole story. The families, who are under
immense distress, also showed me some documents pertaining to the
"I have not made any commitment about safe release of their kin.
But I shall make sincere efforts to get them freed from Somalian
pirates. I will approach higher authorities in Pakistan,
Bangladesh and Nigeria to seek help in facilitating the safe
release of captive sailors as people from those countries too have
been held hostage," he added.
Ravinder Gulia's wife Sampa Arya now runs an NGO, Sailor Relief
"I have also started working for the safe release of captive
sailors from the clutches of Somali pirates. I have gone through
the documents that the sailors' kin have made available," she
"Since 17 of the captive sailors are from India, we will try to
mobilise all the sailors' kin to urge the government to secure
their safe release and fight Somali pirates," Arya added.
(Ravinder Saini can be contacted at email@example.com)