Link to the article: Mohammad Azeemullah
While newspapers and magazines were replete with coverage of Qaddafi’s atrocity, civil war, NATO intervention and evacuations of refugees in Libya, very little attention was paid to the sufferings and challenges of those Indians who had decided to stay back.
The number was very difficult to verify as Embassy of India had shifted from Tripoli to Tunisia during the war but not less than two to three thousand Indians would have preferred to remain despite eminent threat to their lives and security.
Most of those who had decided to stay back belonged to the community of university teachers, medical professionals, nurses, business entrepreneurs and some other essential staff in the construction companies.
My place of residence before and even during the conflict was Zliten, the city which had witnessed some of the most fierce bombing campaign by NATO and the city which inhabited more number of Indians than those of Khooms, Zawiya, Tripoli, Benghazi and other places.
The primary concern for Indian nationals was that of security as unpredictable nature of events ruled the ground. The sound of gun shots was a common occurrence. Often the rebels and the government forces would exchange fire. Most of the Indians would opt to remain inside unless the car or bus came to fetch them for office.
Day by day, communications were coming to a halt. The oil embargo on Libya had begun to affect normal life. Apart from rising prices for daily commodities, the sluggish mobile network was another worry for the Indians. Often they would try hours and hours to make a successful call to acquaintances.
The north African country which had never witnessed power-cut for months and years even for a single minute before, did have frequent disruptions of supply during the war. That added woes to the availability of water. Many of the Indians would simply walk for a kilometer to take water from friends’ houses where generator or more water storage was likely to be available.
As a result, Indians were worried about their survival. They began to question their rationale for staying back. Whenever fierce fighting would erupt in the streets, they would plan to pack up and move, and whenever there was a little calm, they would reconsider their decision to stay.
Fluctuations of opinions in favour of travelling or against worried most of the Indians. In fact, both optimism and pessimism in unison wrapped the daily concern of their living.
However, those who could not bear the exertion of war and sufferings, resigned from the posts and decided to travel. One of them was Dr. Bharat from the state of Maharashtra. He was a surgeon in the city hospital. Many other nurses also followed the same while others still hanged on in the hope of early end of crisis.
One of the extraordinary instances of courage came from an Indian hailing from the state of Tamil Nadu. His name was Kavi Stanley. He was a network engineer. He had lost his job just after 17th February, 2011…the day revolution in Libya started.
To survive, he had to work as a private tutor in the College of Arts and Sciences, Zliten without any regular salary on his way. He often banked upon his friends for monetary assistance, and thus incurred heavy debts. But he never gave up hope.
Equal heroism was shown by Abdul Majid Sheikh coming from Nagpur. He was a business entrepreneur and had been in Libya for years. The war witnessed his thousands of dollars of grain stock being ruined and had heavy losses in trade, yet he stood by hardships.
Those university teachers from India who were in the government jobs had often despair to contend with. For three months, i.e., February, March and April of 2011, there was no release of salary. Tension grew higher and survival looked bleak, yet the Indians were inspired from one another’s sufferings and resolve to stay and work.
Salutation to those Indian women, working as nurses, who displayed a high degree of courage and determination to heal both the fighters and civilians injured in the battlefield.
Acknowledgment is also to those housewives and children who suffered due to lack of food and milk for babies, yet they never submitted.
The risk was, indeed, higher than one could ever imagine. Once while coming from college, I had a narrow escape, possibly fifty meters away from the bombing target of NATO over a military base in Zliten. We felt we would die that day but survived luckily.
Despite all hardships and challenges, the Indian nationals were on duty in the day or in the night, and thus showed exemplary amount of solidarity with the natives in time of their miseries and misfortunes.
Libya did not have as much urgency of foreign staff, particularly Indians, as during the time of war, for most of the immigrants had already left the country out of fear and danger.
India’s greatness does not lie only in its gigantic population, massive military build-up and technological supremacy on the global stage but also lies in the unrewarding services of its common men and women on a foreign soil to those in need and pain.