India has come in the crosshairs of West Asian countries over the controversial statements of two BJP spokespersons in the last fortnight. This condemnation from countries like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, etc, then triggered a chain reaction, leading to up to 16 Islamic countries around the world condemning India as an ‘Islamophobic’ country. In the light of this backlash, it is important to take a look at the recent record of West Asian Islamic countries as far as slavery and racism against Indians are concerned. Their statements must be weighed in this light, and the response to the statements must address the latent hate and supremacy hidden in the condemnation.

Indian women have been trafficked to the Gulf for almost a decade, against their will and under false pretences. Indian women, who were lured to move to countries like Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, etc., were promised higher pay for domestic work by agents. They did not know that they were giving up their freedom and their lives and were going to be sold as slaves in the Gulf.

Indian women have been trafficked to the Gulf for almost a decade, against their will and under false pretences. Indian women, who were lured to move to countries like Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, etc., were promised higher pay for domestic work by agents. They did not know that they were giving up their freedom and their lives and were going to be sold as slaves in the Gulf.

Stories have emerged of these cases of exploitation, sexism, and blatant violation of human rights of women from states all across India — Gujarat, Punjab, Telangana, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, etc. Many of these women sell their property or belongings to raise money to go to the Gulf. They lose everything in the expectation of higher pay, and a dream of working outside India.

But this is not all. The slave trade has metastasized into an even more evil form — slave trading on social media platforms and websites. In 2019, the BBC reported that Instagram and Facebook were being used in the Arab countries to sell women as slaves. Negotiations happened over private messages. As per the report, many illegal listings were still available on tech platforms like Google and Apple, while some were removed by Facebook. People were found selling their domestic workers on a popular app called “4Sale,” which allowed the user to filter domestic workers based on race, with different price brackets. One of the sellers described Indians thus: “Indians are the dirtiest,” while speaking to an undercover journalist team.

Women were not only sold on these platforms but they were also sold as a commodity. There were users who would “buy” a domestic worker for $2,000 and sell her for $3,000. They seize all passports, violate their free will, and the woman is reduced to an object to be traded.

This is not distant history. These are incidents from the last five years. This is not a case of one woman being wronged. This is a case of blatant violation of every human right and exploitation of thousands of Indian women, and of obvious derision for them due to their nationality — Indian.

Seen in this light, the statements from West Asian countries on the disrespect of Prophet Mohammed, the lack of response from the MEA to this “condemnation”, and some threats (like by Al Qaeda) are hard to swallow for self-respecting Indians who do not want their country to kowtow to West Asian countries. Economic ties can be preserved while showing a spine. Trade deals can be closed based on mutual economic benefit. The MEA must speak, and act, and must do it before it is too little, too late. The citizens of India must be reassured that India will not bend in front of countries which sell Indian women as slaves and commodities.

The writer is the author of ‘Cownomics’ and director of the non-profit Ishittva. Views expressed are personal.

80 years after an unprecedented attack, Australia is having run-ins with another rival close to home

Read More….