rediff.com

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  

Rediff News  All News 
Rediff.com  » News » To hell and back: TN fishermen return from Iranian jail

To hell and back: TN fishermen return from Iranian jail

Last updated on: February 7, 2013 18:21 IST

TN fishermen return from Iran after 115 days in captivity

     Next

Next
A Ganesh Nadar in Thiruvananthapuram

After spending 22 days in prison and working in harsh conditions in Iran, the released fishermen returned to India on Tuesday. Rediff.com's A Ganesh Nadar, who has been reporting regularly on their plight and petitioned the government to intervene on their behalf, spoke to  them about their extremely trying experiences

On October 10, 2012, the Iranian coast guard arrested a group of fishermen, including some from India's Kanyakumari district in Tamil Nadu, for fishing in their waters in the Arabian Sea. A total of nine boats, which belonged to two foreign nationals, were seized; three were from Dubai and six from Qatar.

Within three days the Dubai government paid the fine and retrieved their boats and fishermen. But the Indian fishermen were not so lucky. They spent the next 115 days in captivity, of which 22 days were spent in a horrible jail. 

After being released from jail these fishermen took up odd jobs as they did not have money to return to their homes in India. After Rediff.com's perseverance, the Indian government finally came to their rescue and provided them with flight tickets back to the country. They were issued emergency certificates to clear immigration by the Indian embassy in Iran as their passports were in Qatar. 

The last leg was sponsored by James College of Engineering and Technology, Kanyakumari, which sent them a bus to take them back to their village and also welcomed them with garlands at the airport in Thiruvananthapuram at 6 am on Tuesday.

Click NEXT to read further...



Image: The released fishermen at the Thiruvananthapuram airport
Photographs: Rateesh Rajan/Rediff.com

     Next

Captain M Shirin: 'I have abandoned ship -- worst sin a captain can commit'

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

Even if you give me a thousand dirhams I would not do certain jobs, I am the captain of my ship. But on this trip I did those jobs too. Don't ask what.

"You know this currency with 50,000 written on it? It's Iranian money worth just Rs 50. We were working for this kind of money. 

"I feel guilty. The boat owner from Qatar trusted me with his boat, I have let him down. I have abandoned ship -- the worst sin a captain can commit. But I did wait for 115 days, but he couldn't rescue me. My government finally came to our rescue. 

"You know, the Dubai boats went back in two days because they have a good rapport with Iran. Qatar and Iran don't like each other. They arrest each other's fishermen all the time.

"Hidhayathi is an Iranian from Kish Island where we were imprisoned. He has a shop that repairs ships so we know him. Before we reached there he already had two Kanyakumari fishermen as his friends. They introduced us to him. 

"He used to make sure we had eaten. He also used to interact with the local police and make them relax conditions so that we could work. He used to write to his government that we were innocents caught in the Iran-Qatar hostility. 

"Hidhayathi arranged jobs for us. When he came to know that we were going home he collected money and clothes for us. These clothes we are wearing today are his. These new bags and sweets we bought with his money. God bless that man, he wasn't rich but he was generous. 

"Overseas Minister Vayalar Ravi gave us hope in our darkest hour."

Click NEXT to read further...


Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

Prev     Next

Johnny: 'They used us for the worst jobs'

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

See my hands. These hands have washed toilets, these hands have scrubbed roads. You know, the prison officials used to take us out at 9 am and bring us back at 4 pm. We did seven to eight hours of backbreaking work. 

"They used us for the worst jobs; mixing cement, cleaning toilets, washing the road with soap and water. Bend down and wash a road for seven hours; you will be dead. It's amazing we are still alive. 

"They gave us a cup of coffee in the morning and a meal of rice at 4 pm. We knew hunger for the first time in our lives. We are fishermen, we eat a lot. We starved even though we worked like slaves. 

"All we did was fish, but the Iranians treated us like worthless people. We were there for 115 days but the government did not even give us a glass of water.

"The Iranian people are warm. They are poor, many of them smuggle ganja. It's supposed to be an oil rich country but the people are like beggars, very poor. 

"In Kish Island local people gave us odd jobs and gave us money so that we could eat. And the police let us work because of one man named Hidhayathi."

Click NEXT to read further...


Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

Prev     Next

Sahaya Ravi: 'Now I am scared to go back'

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

I have worked in Qatar for 23 years but those 22 days in a jail in Iran were the worst in my life. I have been fishing there for 23 years and have never strayed into any other country. This was the first time and we got arrested. 

"I don't know if it was fate or god punishing me, but it's scarred my heart. It has killed my enthusiasm. Now I am scared to go back. 

"Iran's boats are in Qatari custody. They will never let them go. The Qatar law is very strict. Those boats were not used for fishing. They were used to smuggle ganja. Iran is a poor country. Some of the people there often came and attacked our boats. They take away our fish, our mobile phones and also our GPS and other navigational equipment.

"As Qatar will never release those boats, our boats too will never be released. The Qatar government will give our boat owners money to buy new boats but will never change its laws. 

"I am glad I am back. I had lost all hope of ever seeing my land. I cannot believe we are on a bus going home. God bless the Indian government, this bus owner, Hidhayathi and you."

Click NEXT to read further... 


Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com
Tags: GPS , Iran , Hidhayathi , Qatar

Prev     Next

Christuraj alias Sabooo: 'The jail there almost killed me'

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

I am only 25 and this was my first trip. We worked for three months and got our salary. Thank god I sent that home. In the fourth month we got arrested. 

"All the young boys kept each other's spirits up. Your calls used to make us so happy. And Vayalar Ravi used to say we are like his children. 

"I used to phone my family when I had the money. That assured them that I was still alive. My parents are old. They will be happy to see me. 

"This is my friend Haji; he is the only one who isn't happy to be meeting his family. He is looking forward to meeting his girlfriend. She is waiting for him at the bus stop. He didn't tell his family he is coming so that he can meet her first and then go home. He is so shameless. 

('What is there to be shameless? He doesn't have a girlfriend and so he is jealous, says Haji)

"I have been working as a fisherman for 13 years. I went to sea for the first time when I was only 12. I thought I had seen everything but now I am changed. 

"The jail there almost killed me. I am thankful to god for bringing me back."

Click NEXT to read further... 


Photographs: A Ganesh Nadar/Rediff.com

Prev     Next

Johannson: 'We got no sympathy from Indian immigration officials'

Prev     Next
Prev

Next

I have been working in Qatar for 15 years but have never experienced anything like this. It was evil. Why do the Iranians treat us like this? They treat their drug and ganja smugglers very badly, but why us?

"The ganja smugglers told us that they would be in jail till they became old. There was no law and no appeal there. But they admitted to their crime. 

"Fishing and smuggling are not the same. You are saying India and Iran are friends! You should visit that jail, even your worst enemy wouldn't treat you like that.

"Imagine starving people to death. If we were jailed there longer we would have come home in a coffin. 

"You know that emergency certificate they gave us for our passport? It worked in Dubai where were transited. A man from the Indian embassy was there to help us. 

"It took us just five minutes to clear immigration. In Thiruvananthapuram it took us two hours. They refused to accept the certificate. They refused to even read it. They insisted on taking individual statements. 

"So we gave 29 statements that were written by one man. We were tired, we were sleepy and we were returning after 115 days without our passport, without our belongings and yet we got no sympathy from the Indian immigration officials. 

"Dubai is another country and yet accepted our temporary emergency certificates, but our own country refused. They want to feel important. They want to show us that we can enter this country only if they allow it. 

"If this is the way they treat Indians, I pity foreigners who come here." 

Kanyakumari MP Helen Davidson was at the airport to welcome the fishermen from her constituency, and garlanded each one of them. The chairman of James Engineering College, James Premkumar, was also there. 

The sailors had returned home tired, disheartened and penniless, but with a smile. They had returned to their native land to a rousing welcome.


Image: Dr James Premkumar being garlanded by the Kanyakumari MP Helen Davidson
Photographs: Rateesh Rajan/Rediff.com

Prev     Next

TOP photo features of the week

Prev     More

Click on MORE to see another set of PHOTO features...



Tags: PHOTO , MORE , TOP

Prev     More