HYDERABAD: A kafil in Saudi Arabia is holding Jacintha Mendonca – an Indian nurse from Karnataka – to ransom and is demanding 24,000 Saudi Riyals (Rs 4.32 lakh) to let her go free; even as the agent in Mangalore who illegally trafficked her to Saudi is roaming free.
Both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj are aware of her plight.
The victim was trafficked to Saudi Arabia via Qatar on June 19, 2016. The last time she was able to speak to her family was in December 2016.
“My mother has been sold for Rs five lakh by an agent. She is suffering terribly in Saudi Arabia. She is ill and is being beaten by the kafil. She is helpless. She has to be rescued,” Jacintha Mendonca’s son Vinroy told TOI. “She was promised a job as a home nurse in Qatar for Rs 25,000 salary a month, but was trafficked to Saudi Arabia and pushed into slavery,” Vinroy said.
The Indian Embassy in Riyadh was able to establish contact with Jacintha Mendonca and the kafil holding her. However, the adamant kafil who is also said to be torturing 46-year-old Mendonco, has made it clear that until the 24,000 Saudi Riyal is paid to him, he would not let her go back to India.
The woman, who has three children, was sent to Saudi Arabia by a Mangalore agent named James.
While police have the authority to order the local agent to ensure her return, James was supposedly let off by the Mangalore police after questioning. The Telangana police, on the other hand, has been able to rescue some women from Saudi Arabia by applying pressure on the local agents. At least three women who were trafficked to Saudi Arabia were rescued by the Telangana police who dealt severely with the illegal agents.
The Karnataka police can possibly look at how the Begumpet police in Hyderabad got a woman rescued from Saudi Arabia. The woman Haseena Begum had been thrown from the third floor of a building in Damam by the kafil. The Begumpet police got the illegal agent to get through to the Mumbai agent to ensure her return.
Following stern action against them, Haseena Begum could be freed and she returned in May.
This month the Kadapa police in Andhra Pradesh and Wanragal police in Telangana coordinated and rescued a woman, P Subbalaxmi, who was trapped in Saudi Arabia. She could be brought back because the police acted firmly against the local agent.
In another instance, this month, the Shalibanda police in Hyderabad got a woman Saira Banu rescued from Saudi Arabia in a similar manner.
In Jacintha Mendonca’s case, though the names and telephone numbers of both the local agent James and Mumbai agent Shabha Khan are disclosed; precious little has been done about getting the woman rescued.
Ravindranath Shanbhag — president of Human Rights Protection Forum, Udipi — has also shared with the Deputy Commissioner of Police Mangalore, the telephone number of an Indian driver in Yanbhu, Saudi Arabia, who knows the whereabouts of Jacintha Mendonco and is also willing to help. He said the embassy informed him that the Recruiting Agency that sent her to Saudi Arabia had been blacklisted by the MEA.
“James and Shabha Khan are responsible for sending Jacintha to Saudi Arabia. They were working for Trio Tracks Travel, New Delhi. As per the website maintained by the Ministry of External Affairs, this Travel Agency has been black listed. We do not understand how a blacklisted company could arrange visa for Jacintha,” said Ravindranath Shanbhag.
He told TOI that the Under Secretary of MEA had written to the Home Secretary of Maharashtra and DGP of Mumbai to investigate and report the matter.
When TOI contacted DCP Mangalore K M Shantha Raju on Friday to find out if anything had been done to rescue Jacintha Mendonca, he said he would have to look into the case details. Bangalore city police commissioner Praveen Sood is also aware of Jacintha’s suffering.
Jacintha’s son Vinroy said the family had lodged a complaint against the agent in Karkala police station in January this year. “What we know is that the agent was questioned and let off. My mother has not been rescued from slavery yet,” he said.