Many Indians stuck in Ukraine have alleged that they have been stopped from crossing the country’s borders and have been assaulted by the authorities of the conflict-hit country. Since Sunday, several of them have described their ordeal on social media.
On Monday, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi posted a video on Twitter where armed men could be seen assaulting people at what appears to be a border post. In the widely shared video, women could be heard screaming and a man saying in Hindi: “See, how they are beating up women.”
“My heart goes out to the Indian students suffering such violence and their family watching these videos,” Gandhi wrote on Twitter. He urged the central government to make public a detailed evacuation plan.
Mansi Chaudhary, an Indian student in Ukraine, told NDTV on Sunday that those waiting to cross the Ukraine border had been “tortured”. On her way back to her hostel after spending three days at the Ukraine-Poland border, she told the news channel that Indians were not being allowed to cross over to the neighbouring country.
“Border guards are not letting us cross,” Chaudhary said. “If someone tries to cross, they attack them with rods. They are punching them in the faces. Yesterday [Saturday], they also opened fire.”
Vikram Beniwal, a medical student, tweeted a video on Saturday, in which he said there were long queues at the Ukraine border and people had been waiting without food and rest.
“The Ukrainians are saying there is no support from the Indian embassy,” he said in the video.
Relatives and friends of those stuck in Ukraine have also shared accounts of students who walked for hours to reach the Ukraine-Poland border, only to be told that they will not be allowed to cross over.
After Ukraine closed its airspace for civilian aircraft following the attack from Russia, India is looking to evacuate its citizens through land routes. So far, India’s evacuation plan has been to make the citizens cross over to Ukraine’s neighbouring countries Poland, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia and then fly them to India.
The evacuation process has been named “Operation Ganga”. On Sunday, the Indian government set up a dedicated Twitter handle to provide information and assistance regarding the evacuation process.
However, as several students have alleged, they are not being allowed to cross the Ukrainian border.
On Sunday, the BBC’s South Asia Editor Lipika Pelham said that “there were too many testimonies to discount” that African and Indian students were being stopped from boarding trains at the Polish border.
Pelham said that the Ukrainian authorities have not given an explanation for why Indians have not been allowed to cross the borders. She, however, added that some Indian students have said the reason could be India’s stance on the Russia-Ukraine conflict at the United Nations Security Council.
On Friday, India had abstained from voting on a United Nations Security Council resolution that deplored Russia’s “aggression” against Ukraine. China and the United Arab Emirates were the only other countries to have abstained, while Russia vetoed the resolution.
On Monday, India again abstained from voting on the resolution to refer the matter to an emergency session of the UN General Assembly.
Significantly, during the voting at the UN Security Council, Ukraine’s ambassador to the global body had told India: “It is exactly the safety of your nationals, why you should have voted Yes to end the war.”
Before Russia started its “military operation” in Ukraine, there were about 20,000 Indians in the country. Of them, nearly 4,000 had left Ukraine before it closed airspace, Ministry of External Affairs’ spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had said in a press briefing last week.
So far, five flights, carrying more than 200 citizens each, have evacuated Indians under the “Operation Ganga”. But the majority of Indians living in Ukraine – many of them medical students – are still stuck there.