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HindustanTimes Fri,22 Aug 2014

Rescued sailors start lives again, one day at a time

Vaishnavi Vasudevan, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, January 28, 2013
First Published: 00:45 IST(28/1/2013) | Last Updated: 00:48 IST(28/1/2013)

Swapnil Jadhav might have lost many things in the three years he was held hostage by Somali pirates, but his faith in god wasn’t one of them.

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Jadhav and four other Indian sailors were rescued last month after the government of Somalia's Puntland region freed them after a 13-day battle with the pirates.

“There was not a moment when we did not think of god. I am glad that my prayers were finally answered,” said the 26-year-old who fasted every Saturday, even as the pirates brutally tortured him and his fellow crewmembers.

In their first counseling session organised by the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response in Mumbai, the five rescued sailors and their families shared stories of anguish from the last three years.

Harish Shetty, a psychiatrist treating the crew, said the sailors were left with some deep-seated fears after the experience. “We conducted special sessions to help them express their emotions. It will take few more months for them to completely recover.”

MV Iceberg1, a Panama-registered ship was attacked by Somali pirates off the coast of Yemen while it was heading to the United Arab Emirates. Out of the twenty-two sailors, six Indians were taken hostage with the crew threatened at gun point.

Along with the mental hardships, they still carry physical reminders of their experience. Jadhav has a wound from when a bullet pierced his left leg during a rescue operation. Many still have stomach aches from starving on one bowl of dry rice and a litre of water every three days.

The relief is incomplete though. The sailors and their families are still awaiting the return of one crew member, Dheeraj Tiwari, who went missing after the ship was hijacked.

“I am glad that my son has come back, but with a heavy heart I pray that Dheeraj is tracked and rescued by the government authorities,” said Surekha Jadhav, Swapnil’s mother.


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