As far as New Delhi is concerned, the Gulf countries are very effective cash cows. Vast numbers of Indians live in those countries, sending back valuable remittances, and they also happen to be useful sources of investment. The fact that Indian migrants are routinely abused, ill-treated and occasionally trafficked is often the last thing on New Delhi's mind when dealing with these nations. Once in a while, however, we get a brutal reminder of just what its like to be an Indian in the Gulf.
A viral video, recently posted by a Canadian journalist Tarek Fatah, an Arab man referred to as a 'Saudi engineer' is seen brutally beating up a South Asian construction worker, said to be engaged in the Grand Mosque expansion in Mecca. The video, first posted on Facebook a few years ago, shows the engineer slapping and kicking the worker and then brutally using his belt to lash the Indian man. With bloated eyes, the worker pleads for mercy, but the violence doesn't let up.
The Saudi government usually prefers to maintain silence on issues like this, but this particular video, including an accusation that the man is a Saudi national, went viral enough that the authorities felt the need to address the matter. In a statement, Riyadh said it had investigated the issue and concluded that the individual was not a Saudi national but an "Arab immigrant." A local newspaper also reported authorities in Saudi Arabia saying the man had apologised to the Indian worker, and that the case will continue to be "pursued."
While videos are rare, abuse of this sort is actually routine in the Gulf. Last year, Human Rights Watch reported on the troubling abuse faced by foreign labourers, particularly domestic workers. Instances of abuse such as being unpaid or extremely low wages, odd work hours, the withholding of employees’ passports and accommodation in dingy and hazardous conditions are commonplace.
The current incident seems to have gained more notice than on average, with lawmakers bringing it up and a lawyer even reportedly approaching the government to take action against the Arab man. This will only add to anger against Saudi Arabia in India after a Saudi diplomat accused of keeping two Nepali women as sex slaves fled under the cover of diplomatic immunity.