Stranded Indians appeal to government for evacuation from Sudan

The third-largest country in Africa is home for about 4,000 Indians, including 1,200 who settled in decades ago.

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Hundreds of terrified Indian citizens are making frantic appeals to New Delhi for their immediate evacuation from Sudan amid escalating violence in the African nation, where electricity and food supplies are becoming scarce.

Sudan is witnessing renewed conflict after two generals — army chief and military ruler Gen Abdel Fattah Al Burhan and commander of the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) Gen Mohamed Dagalo — started fighting over control of the country, which has left nearly 300 dead and more than 1,800 injured.

The armed conflict entered its fifth day on Wednesday amid efforts by global diplomats to bring it to an end.

The third-largest country in Africa is home for about 4,000 Indians, including 1,200 who settled in the country decades ago, according to official data.

One of them, Bhupendra, was at an iftar gathering last weekend when he first heard explosions.

“We are living in fear,” he told The National on the phone from Khartoum.

“It has not stopped since then … The bombings are happening now approximately 500 metres away from us. We couldn’t sleep last night due to the sounds.”

Bhupendra said that he could see fighter jets bombarding the area from his apartment.

Dozens of armoured vehicles were on the streets, leaving them stranded in their homes.

“Almost all Indians are facing the issues related to food, water, electricity, medicine. Some hotels are asking people to leave due to no resources or not being able to serve food,” he said.

Jayant Kewlani, 23, from central Madhya Pradesh state, arrived in Khartoum in March looking for work. He was meant to return home on April 20, but days before his flight the war broke out, leaving him stuck at a friend’s apartment.

“My home was at the centre of Khartoum and was close to the military base nearby. I had to leave and rush to my friend’s flat.

“From Sunday at 3am there has been no electricity. We are facing the problem of water and charging essential items like mobile phones. Groceries are almost over at stores. The situation is getting worse day by day,” he said.

The situation is better in some villages, but cases of looting and robbery have increased since the war, forcing shop owners to close their doors.

“I have lived here for over a year and it was always peaceful but since last week, the situation has changed … looting and robbery has started,” said Raj Sharma, a printing operator in the Omdurman area.

“There was no previous information on the war and the Indian embassy is asking us to wait but we want to go home as soon as possible,” he said.

Many have launched appeals to New Delhi to evacuate them or their relatives from the conflict zone, prompting the Indian embassy to set up a control room in Sudan.

“The situation is very, very scary there … I am appealing to the government to start the evacuation process and bring [my husband] home safely,” Ms Sheetal told The National.

Her husband works at a hotel in Khartoum and has been stranded with other guests since the violence broke out.

Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar held talks on Tuesday with his UAE and Saudi counterparts, Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed and Prince Faisal bin Farhan, to discuss steps to help stranded citizens.

Mr Jaishankar had earlier said that the evacuation process was being held back by the continuing fierce fighting.

“Plans regarding them have to take into account a very complicated security scenario,” he said, when responding to criticism from an opposition leader over the delay in evacuations.

Updated: April 20, 2023, 10:09 AM