Mumbai/Kochi, Dec 20 IANS | 8 months ago

Indian Merchant Navy Capt. Sunil James and sailor V. Vijayan, released Thursday, arrived in Mumbai and Kochi, respectively, Friday almost five months after their incarceration in a Togo jail.


James and Vijayan were arrested July 31 along with at least another Indian sailor of "MT Ocean Centurion" near the west coast of Africa.

The release of James was fast-tracked after Congress MP Sanjay Nirupam from Mumbai North took Aditi, her sister Avni and brother-in-law Rakesh Madappa to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi seeking India's intervention in the matter.

James reiterated his thanks and gratitude to the PM, the Indian High Commission officials in Togo and the Indian community settled in the West African nation.

In Kochi, Vijayan too thanked the PM. "I am thankful to the prime minister who helped us through his intervention with the authorities in Togo," he told reporters after he arrived at the airport here from Mumbai.

He, however, showed his displeasure against the media and also the state government, which, according to him, did nothing in his time of need.

"My wife was running from pillar to post for 10 days and you (the media) did nothing to help her and now you are after me to know things," said Vijayan, a third engineer in the ship that was first hijacked and abandoned after a few days.

According to him, they are still clueless as to why they were jailed.

"For three days, we were blindfolded and held as hostage by the kidnappers and after they went away, Togo authorities took over their ship and we ended up in jail," said Vijayan.

In Mumbai, police had a tough time in escorting James and his wife Aditi to a waiting vehicle from where he was scheduled to go to a south Mumbai morgue and see the body of his only child, 11-month old Vivaan, who expired Dec 2.

A huge crowd of well-wishers and mediapersons virtually mobbed him outside the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport here as he stepped out.

"I am aware my family and others were fighting for me and other crew members to secure our release. Their support made us feel we were not alone," James said.

Aditi said, "Its a very big relief though we feel it could have come earlier. We got results a fortnight after meeting the prime minister ... We are happy as till this (Friday) morning we were not aware whether he would be released."

Aditi said she promised their son he would meet his father and that has been fulfilled, referring to the family's decision not to perform Vivaan's last rites till James returned.

"We have not yet decided on the funeral though tentatively we have fixed it for Saturday in Malad. But, the final decision will be taken by Vivaan's father only," Rakesh told IANS earlier Friday.

The end of the ordeal signalled subdued joy among the family members that also comprises James' aged mother.

"We were confident justice will be delivered. Whatever has happened is now the past ... We shall look at the future now," James said.

The family hopes the coming Christmas and the New Year would help heal the wounds and everything would turn out for the better in 2014.

(Posted on 20-12-2013)