By Mayank Jain:Â
UAE has turned out to be the next infrastructure hub with concrete jungles rising up at the breakneck speed in the 21st century, on the back of which it has staked its claim to be the next big thing of the coming decades. With this progress in terms of infrastructural development, also comes the danger of falling prey to a capitalist society that puts little value to a man’s life.
Thousands of Indians have lined up in the queue for getting jobs in Dubai, the second preference of visitors after Bangkok for its gold import potential. Lately, there have been reports of unjust treatment of people as well as inhumane living conditions of these workers who are eventually turned into slaves by a vicious web of buyers, sellers and builders; with nobody coming to their rescue.
One such case is that of 17 Indian workers who were detained by police only to be dumped in jail in the United Arab Emirates. They came to the realization much later that they were all charged for the murder of a Pakistani labourer in a sentence without fair hearing. All of these men made a few headlines in the Indian media before fading out.
The important point here is to ask how can 17 people be convicted for murdering one person and why didn’t the Indian Embassy step up to help them?
A journalist, Sonia Kriplani, set out to find out the realities on ground and kept looking for cracks with her camera until she traced every one of them back to their home towns in Punjab. She made a documentary called “17 Not Required Indians” on the lives and tribulations of these men which was recently screened at the Mumbai Film Festival on February 8th. The production has won the MIPdoc award for documentaries at Cannes as well.
Sonia Kriplani has pointed out that it is just not about these 17 men and that there are as many as “1700 Indians in UAE prisons charged with crimes; 200 of them are on death row”. A public interest litigation filed by Navikiran Singh, a human rights lawyer based in Chandigarh uncovered the statistics and he came for the help of these 17 men who were facing a hard time in even understanding their situation as the courts only used Arabic to communicate.
The sad fact of this story is the indifference shown by the Indian Embassy which was repeatedly called up by these men to help them and only false promises of someone reaching out to them were given. This never happened and when finally the Embassy hired lawyers to fight these cases, they didn’t get a translator for the first three hearings.
There are more stories, more voices of dissent, of injustice and of oppression buried under the blaring noise of the metropolitan that Dubai is turning into and we can only hope that either one of UAE or the Indian government mends its ways and stops this war against humanity.