A case which should have been dominating headlines has been downplayed by our ‘national’ media, which is more interested in running down the government over differences in interpretation of the G20 meeting between Bharat’s PM and the US President.
8 former Indian Navy officers have been languishing in a Qatar jail for 85 days now. They were detained on August 30 and have been kept since in solitary confinement by Qatar’s intelligence agencies. Qatari officials have refused to state the charges against the men, but there is some speculation that they were arrested for ‘spying for Israel’, a charge that Bharatiya government sources have rubbished.
All 8 were working for Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services, a company which trains the Qatari Emiri Navy and provides logistics services and equipment maintenance. The CEO of the company, Khamis Al Ajmi, is a retired Squadron Leader from the Royal Oman Air Force.
Among the eight ex-Navy officers in custody is Commander Purnendu Tiwari (retd), the managing director of the Dahra Global Technologies and Consultancy Services. He received the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award in 2019, which is given by the President of Bharat.
Apart from Cdr. Tiwari, the other detained officers are Cdr. Navtej Singh Gill, director (naval training); Cdr. Birendra Kumar Verma, director of the Naval Academy; Cdr. Sugunakar Pakala, director, FCN; Cdr. Sanjeev Gupta; Cdr. Amit Nagpal; Capt. Saurab Vasisht; and Ragesh Gopakumar.
The team was residing in Qatar for the past five years, but were arrested from their homes in the middle of the night without prior notice. The company’s website has also become inactive since the 8 men were detained.
It has been revealed that apart from being kept in solitary confinement, the men have also faced extreme mental harassment. It is believed that even the 8 men are in the dark about why they are being held, and they have not been produced in court as would be the norm in any law-abiding nation.
Cdr. Tiwari was a respected and well-known face to the people in the government machinery in Doha. A Gulf Times report from Feb 2019 shows how he was even felicitated in Qatar –
The Indian ambassador P Kumaran, joined by Maj Gen Tariq Khalid al-Obaidly, former head of the International Military Co-operation Authority in the Qatar Armed Forces and Khamis al-Ajmi, CEO Dahra Technologies, felicitated Qatar resident and Pravasi Bharatiya Samman (2019) Awardee, Cdr Purnendu Tiwari at an event on Wednesday.
The President of India Ram Nath Kovind had conferred the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman award to Cdr Tiwari (Indian Navy, retired) on January 23. He is the first Indian Armed Forces personnel to be awarded this highest honour meant for NRIs / PIOs.
Cdr Tiwary served in Indian Navy from 1982 to 2002, having various tenures, including command of Ships Kozhikode and Magar. He is the managing director in Dahra Group and instrumental in setting up a world class training infrastructure for the Qatar Amiri Naval Force and conducting training of officers.
Disturbingly, even their brief interactions with their family members back home are being policed by the Qataris. As this The Sunday Guardian report informs us –
“Being forced to speak to his 83-year-old mother in English, who does not understand the language, stuck in solitary confinement for 70 days, and wondering why he was being detained and when the ordeal would end, is how the decorated 63-year-Indian Navy veteran, Commander Purnendu Tiwari, is spending his time at a detention centre in Doha, Qatar.”
Seeking help from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, Mitu Bhargava, Cdr. Tiwari’s sister, tweeted: “Please help our eight Navy veterans (officers), their family members & our countrymen as these officers had served our motherland. Need immediate help of our Indian government.”
Expressing concern about her brother’s health, she said he is a senior citizen suffering from diabetes and other ailments.
Bharatiya govt. efforts ‘lackadaisical’, say families
Family members of the 8 men claimed that the attitude of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Bharat, has been “lackadaisical” so far. The MEA, according to them, took notice of the incident, that too after more than 50 days of them being in detention, only after one of the family members tweeted to PM Narendra Modi.
However, MEA claims that the Bharatiya Embassy in Doha is making ‘all possible efforts’ for the early release and repatriation of the eight men. It said that high-ranking officials have been sent to Doha to secure the release of these veterans, but to no avail as yet.
“We are aware of the detention of eight Indian nationals who we understand were working for a private company in Qatar. Our Embassy and Ministry are in touch with the families. Our embassy there is making all possible efforts for the early release and repatriation of the detained Indian nationals,” MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.
The Bharatiya embassy in Doha became aware of the arrest only in mid-September.
The arrested men were allowed to speak to their families over the phone in September and were granted consular access, first on October 3 and then again in the first week of November, as confirmed by Bagchi.
“It was after a lot of effort that we got to know that on 20 September he was picked up by the police on the night of 30 August, without any reason being given. When he called for the first time on 30 September, only then he realised that seven of his colleagues too had been taken into custody along with him, as he told us that he was the only one taken into detention and he was being kept alone. We asked him whether they had told him why they arrested him, and he said he too was seeking the answer to that question. Whenever he calls, he asks us to do whatever we can do to ensure he is released,” a close family member of Tiwari told The Sunday Guardian.
Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar returned a few days back from Qatar after attending the opening ceremony of FIFA World Cup 2022 besides meeting a cross-section of Bharatiya community. But there was no word on the illegal detention of the 8 ex-Navy officers.
This shocking arrest of decorated Indian Navy veterans has come despite Qatar officially having ‘substantive and strong’ relations with Bharat, with the two countries holding joint maritime exercises. The last bilateral maritime exercise between the Indian Navy and Qatar Emiri Naval Force, was conducted between August 9-14, 2021 in the Persian Gulf.
Qatar – an emerging hub of global Islamic radicalism
Qatar is an Islamic autocratic monarchy which won independence from Britain in 1971. This tiny but rich Gulf Arab nation has emerged as a key funder and sponsor of Islamic terrorism and radical Islam across the world, often through front NGOs.
In recent years, it has also emerged as a crucial part of the Qatar-Turkey-Pakistan (QTPi) nexus fueled by Muslim Brotherhood (MB) Islamist ideology, which is targeting nations like Bharat through disinformation campaigns led by two media weapons, Qatar’s Al Jazeera and Turkey’s TRT World. Interestingly, the QTPi nexus is at odds with other Arab and Gulf powers like Saudi Arabia and UAE, which have moved to curb Islamic radicalism in recent years.
Qatar has a population of close to 3 million, but over 80% of those are non-citizen expatriates. Many of these foreign workers are exploited in slave-like working conditions – around 7000 migrant workers, mostly from Bharat and other subcontinental nations, died while constructing stadiums and other infrastructure for the ongoing 2022 football World Cup in Qatar; Qatar has obstinately refused to even acknowledge these deaths, leave alone paying compensation.
Not surprisingly, Qatar was also one of the first Arab nations to summon Bharat’s envoy to express their indignation at ‘blasphemous’ comments against Islam’s Prophet by Nupur Sharma. That firestorm started by POCSO-accused fake news peddler Md. Zubair of Alt News, was based on a cleverly edited clip of a TV debate where Nupur had asked Islamist panelists mocking the sacred Shivling to desist lest Hindus are forced to respond in kind by quoting from Islamic scripture.
Qatar also faced heavy criticism after its decision to invite terror-accused, absconding hate-preacher Zakir Naik to deliver lectures on Islam during the football World Cup.
The illegal detention of 8 Navy veterans has invited anger from the Indian Navy community. Former Indian Navy Chief Admiral Arun Prakash said that it was time to review IN-Qatari Navy relations and joint naval exercise ‘Zair-al-Bahr’.
“Arbitrary solitary confinement of former Indian Navy officers, by Qatar, when “repatriation” would have sufficed, is inappropriate for a “friendly” neighbour. Perhaps time to review IN-Qatari Navy relations & joint naval exercise “Zair-al-Bahr.” – he said.
Retired Army General GD Bakshi also slammed our inability to get our veterans back –
There is growing anger against Qatar for its blatantly anti-Bharat and anti-Hindu moves. In a fast-changing world, no country can afford to behave arrogantly and harbor delusions of grandeur based on natural resource wealth alone. Qatar needs to abide by rule of law, and not behave like a tinpot dictatorship.