Three youths from Kangra district — Sushil Kumar (37) of Nagrota Surian, who had been working in Merchant Navy for the last 13 years and was the captain of a merchant ship, Pankaj Kumar from Samloti village and Ajay Kumar from Palampur— who were held hostage for 72 days by Nigerian pirates, have been released. They were given a rousing welcome by their families and locals after their safe return.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur tweeted on Wednesday, “I am highly grateful to honorable Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj for her tireless efforts in securing the release of three Himachalis who were kidnapped in Nigeria. A big thanks from the people of Himachal,” tweeted the Chief Minister.
Upon returning to his village Sushil’s younger brother, Vinay Kumar, said: “He was unwell for almost 12 to 15 days suffering from malaria and was kept without food and medicines by the kidnappers. He had a high fever and survived only on water and Maggi. Last 12 days were very horrifying. They did not harm them physically, but kept torturing them mentally.”
He added that Sushil had no hope of making it back alive. “Other two youths — Pankaj and Ajay Kumar hailing from Nagotra Bhagwan and Palampur, respectively — also used to cry recalling their families and aged parents,” he said.
Raghuvir Singh, father of Sushil Kumar, when contacted on phone, said that he got a phone call from his local MLA Hoshiar Singh that his son has been released by the Nigerian pirates. Later, the BJP MP from Kangra, Shanta Kumar, also talked to Raghuvir Singh and informed him about the release of his son.
Local BJP MLA Arun Sharma was present with Pankaj’s family, while Arjun Singh, BJP MLA from Jawali, was with a family of Sushil when they both reached their homes.
Raghuvir Singh said it was on March 12 that the family had received a call from Nigeria. Speaking to the family, Sushil informed them that some Nigerian sea pirates had hijacked his ship and kidnapped three Indian crew members, including him.
He said after this call the family contacted the shipowner Nesto and talked to him about the latest situation. Nesto informed them that he was trying to negotiate with the pirates and he was ready to give the ransom money to get the three released from their clutches. The family had alleged that Nesto was misleading them. The families had approached the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office through the state government and Shanta Kumar.