Three men from Kerala, who were tortured by their Saudi employer, returned home Saturday following the intervention of the External Affairs Ministry. What paved the way for their return was a video clip of the torture which they sent home a week ago.
The three men from Alappuzha district were offered “technical jobs” in Saudi Arabia by a recruiter from Kerala, but they ended up in a brick manufacturing unit run by a Saudi national. Baiju Babu, 29, arrived in Saudi six weeks ago, while Abhilash Gopi, 21, and Vimal Kumar, 30, landed a month ago.
According to Babu, on reaching Abha city, he was taken to the brick manufacturing unit by the recruiter, Shamsad Rasheed from Kerala, who had offered him a job in a private company.
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Babu said when he asked about the job that was promised, Rasheed kept repeating: “You have to do all kinds of jobs.”
Recalling the torture by the owner, Babu said, “He would spit on our face and abuse us for silly reasons. Other employees at the unit came from Pakistan and Bangladesh, and they had no option but to suffer the torture.”
He said they would work for 12 hours, starting 6 am. “At noon, we would get a one-hour break to prepare food, which we had to pay for.”
As the physical and mental torture continued, Babu asked Rasheed to send him back home. “During discussions in Kerala, Rasheed had promised he would take me home if I faced trouble. But when I wanted to return, Rasheed threatened that I would be trapped in criminal cases and eventually land in jail.”
In the meantime, Gopi and Kumar also joined the unit and faced a similar experience. “Without any provocation, the Saudi national would vent his ire on us,” said Gopi.
The trio kept demanding that they be allowed to return home. According to Babu, a week ago, they were asked to meet the owner in his office. “When we stepped inside, he asked us not to enter like this. So, we went outside and waited. But when he saw us standing outside the office, he became angry. He took a wooden plank and started beating me. Then he hurled the broken leg of the chair at Gopi,” said Babu.
Babu said Kumar caught the incident on his mobile phone. “It was not a planned move. When we had discussed the torture with other workers from Kerala, they said we had no proof. When the man started beating me, Kumar thought of capturing it on his mobile phone,” said Babu.
The trio sent the footage to their families in Kerala, which then brought it to the attention of the state government through TV channels. They also filed a complaint with the local police in Saudi Arabia against the unit owner and Rasheed.
“Our employer and Rasheed threatened us to withdraw the case. After Rasheed came to know about the torture footage being circulated in Kerala, he threatened our families too,” said Gopi.
The three then went into hiding for a week. “A man from Malappuram, who has been running a hotel in the city for 20 years, gave us shelter,” said Babu.
Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said the issue would be taken up with Saudi authorities. Officials said the minister had asked the Indian mission there to take prompt action and ensure their speedy return.