DUTCH REGRET SCHIPHOL FIASCO
OUTRAGED AT the treatment meted out to 12 Indian nationals, the government on Friday summoned the Dutch ambassador to the Foreign Office to lodge a strong protest over the entire incident. Although the 12 men were released without any charges being pressed, the incident "should never have happened," MoS for External Affairs Anand Sharma said.Updated: Aug 26, 2006 01:58 IST
OUTRAGED AT the treatment meted out to 12 Indian nationals, the government on Friday summoned the Dutch ambassador to the Foreign Office to lodge a strong protest over the entire incident.
Although the 12 men were released without any charges being pressed, the incident "should never have happened," MoS for External Affairs Anand Sharma said.
The men were scheduled to reach Mumbai by a Northwest Airlines flight on Friday night.
For now, India has only protested to the Dutch government. It has neither taken up the issue with the airline nor issued any new travel guidelines for passengers travelling to the West.
The secretary (west) in the MEA, Shashi Tripathi, summoned Dutch Ambassador Eric Niehe to South Block and, for 45 minutes, protested at the treatment doled out to the 12 men who were returning after conducting legitimate business abroad. There was no evidence of any wrong-doing on the part of those detained, and India was "unhappy" at the way the incident was handled. What occurred was "unfortunate and regrettable".
The men were taken off the flight in handcuffs, kept in solitary cells by the Dutch authorities, and not allowed to phone their families, sources said.
Antunius Slotboom, a Dutch passenger who was on the plane, said: "The way they got arrested inside the plane with everybody seeing how they got treated, I thought it was inhuman... They were treated like dogs."
Slotboom, who arrived in Mumbai on Thursday night along with 17 other Mumbai-bound passengers of the Northwest flight, said the arrest seemed part of an "offensive against Arabic people".
Nitin Dalal, another passenger, said the arrested men "were not listening to the crew" and did things that made the crew "suspicious".
Another passenger Bharat Menon told PTI: "The cabin crew was repeatedly asking the passengers to fasten their seat belts when one passenger received a call on his cellphone. The person, who was travelling in economy class along with his friends, then spoke a bit excitedly over the phone. The behaviour of these men was suspicious and they were handing the cellphones to each other."
The arrest of the Indians raised the question of racial profiling as there was no evidence that they had committed any crime. The incident was "not in conformity with the friendly relations existing between India and the Netherlands," MEA spokesman Navtej Sarna said.
Niehe, who expressed regret over the incident, but did not apologize on his government's behalf, told the MEA that the 12 Indians were not detained because of any racial bias but because they aroused suspicion for not obeying flight rules. He told Tripathi he would ascertain the details from his headquarters and revert to her.
The Northwest Airlines flight was escorted back to Amsterdam's Schiphol airport on Wednesday after the crew reported that some passengers had displayed "behaviour of concern".
First Published: Aug 26, 2006 01:58 IST