Abducted in Nigeria, K Swaminathan of Vishrantwadi is back home with wife Smita and son Amit, almost a month after he was released by his kidnappers. Two days after he returned to Pune, he recounted his ordeal.
Newsline had reported how on June 16, Swaminathan (53) was kidnapped as he was returning from his office. (Held hostage for five days, Puneite rescued, Newsline June 22). His kidnappers demanded a ransom of 10 million Nigerian Naira, (around Rs 37 lakh).
Swamainathan’s family in Pune got calls from kidnappers who threatened to kill him if the ransom is not paid. Swaminathan was released after the Nigerian army and police, in a joint operation, mounted pressure on the abductors. Swaminathan’s company had paid part of the ransom.
“It was a normal working day and after office we stopped to recharge our mobile phones and have cold drinks, when suddenly I was kidnapped. My colleague was pushed off and they dragged me into a car,” said Swaminathan. The kidnappers, he added, roamed around before taking him to a forest, 20 minutes from his guest house.
All this was shocking for Swaminathan, who landed in Nigeria a week before the incident. “When my blindfold was removed, I saw that I was in a jungle and it was raining heavily. My kidnappers asked me to remove my shirt and made me sit under a tree in the rain,” he remembered. None of the kidnappers seemed to be above 28 years. They hit him with butts of guns and kicked him and threatened to kill him. “I used to plead with them to be considerate about my age, but none of my pleas had any effect on them,” he said. The kidnappers said they would kill him if their demands were not met.
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Due to the efforts by Swaminathan’s family, local MP Anil Shirole had taken up the matter with the Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, who apparently opened channels of discussions for his release. “When it became clear I would have to be released, the kidnappers stopped physically tormenting me and asked me to act as their informer. They said they were forced to release me, so I would have to give them details of the movement of my senior, who they were planning to kidnap and recover hefty sums of money,” he said. The first thing Swaminathan did was inform the targeted person and request him to take due care.
Although he was released toward the end of June, he could return to India only on July 20. His company was reluctant to part with him, but the ordeal made him too weak to resume work.
His return was hastened, when in reply to an email sent by him to the ministry of external affairs, officials directed the company to allow him to return to India.
There were many loose ends which Swaminathan is determined to tie up. To start with, he says, the whole affair smacked of involvement of an informer, who was keeping a tab on his movement. Also, amongst his kidnappers, he claimed to have spotted a twin of a colleague. “The police in Nigeria was lackadaisical and the first thing they said when my seniors had gone to file an FIR was that I would not be hurt but money has to be paid for my release,” he said. Swaminathan suffers from effects of torture. His left shoulder bears the mark of a hacksaw, which his kidnappers used to threaten him that his arm will be cut off. He has recurring nightmares.
He plans to help other Indians in Nigeria. “The country is not safe any more and I would like to help others who are still there,” he said. Swaminathan and his family have thanked Swaraj and Shirole, who they said were instrumental in his release. Also, his family and friends played an important part in helping them get Swaminathan back.