By Violet Pereira, Team Mangalorean
Mangalore: Eight youngsters from Dakshina Kannada are languishing in a Saudi Arabian jail over the past ten years. They have been falsely implicated in a case involving passing and routing of illegal telephone calls, said T M Shahid, member of the Coir Board of India, at a media meet held in the press club at Urva here on June 27.
Shahid said that all the eight youth had been accused of illegally passing and routing telephone calls. The case has been registered by the Saudi Telecom company under 4 different files and details of the files are as follows.
File no 1. Hussain Ahmed Kudroli, Yousuf Mohammed Shafi and Mohammed Ashraf - amount demanded by the Saudi government as penalty is Saudi Riyals 2 million.
File no. 2. Nasir Mohammed, Faiz Ahmed and Riyaz Ahmed - amount demanded is SR 3 million.
File No. 3, Mohammed Ayoob Kannoor - amount demanded is SR 80,000.
File No. 4 Mohammed Sharif and the amount demanded SR 1 million.
On March 19, 2003, at 10-00 pm, Hussain Ahmed Kudroli, Yousuf Mohammed Shafi and Mohammed Ashraf were arrested by the police and other five were arrested from their respective rooms at the same time. When they asked for the reason for their arrest, they were told that a phone racket was operating there and the room had been tracked down as the point of operation by the Saudi telecom department.
“For one and a half year, we were not aware of our son's arrest," Mohammed, father of Nasir, said in a sad voice, tinged with bitterness. "I did not inform his mother for a long time that her son was arrested. As soon as she knew he was in jail, she wanted to see him, " he recalled. With much difficulty and sacrifices, they arranged for a Hajj visa and met their son at a court in Jeddah.
"The couple met their son in jail in December 2006. Since then they have never seen nor met their son. We have done everything within our means and capacity. We have even written to the prime minister and Chief minister," Shahid said.
"The telecom company has told Faiz and his friends that they will be released as soon as they pay the fine. There is no recourse to appeal.
"The Saudi telecom company has imposed this huge amount as penalty on 8 youngsters. It is highly impossible for them to pay their amount. The parents have become weak financially and psychologically and a few of them have been hospitalized, whereas some are undergoing depression.
These families have approached the Union and state governments and also various Saudi Arabian authorities besides the Indian consulate in Jeddah and Riyadh but all the efforts proved to be of no use.
"Now the families have once again approached the media to get in touch with the donors' foundations and institutions and also the Union and state government to find a solution," Shahid added.
He also said that when all the 8 were sleeping in their respective rooms, the Saudi intelligence bureau raided and arrested them at the same time in 2003. "All the eight are innocent and they are imprisoned for the last 10 years. We have submitted a memorandum to the chief minister of Karnataka and Union minister for external affairs S M Krishna too. But nothing has happened till date," he added.
The eight persons are from around Mangalore like Bajpe, B C Road, Suratkal, Ullal, Kudroli and Kallapu.
Mohammed Javed, Mohammed Parvez, D M Mustaffa and M K Mohammed were also present at the media meet.
What is the offence?
There has been a racket of making available cheap phone contacts from the Gulf countries to India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Philippines and other countries. For example, if an expatriate wants to call home, he has to contact certain 'agent' in the market-place and provide him with the number in his hometown to be called and the preferred time of calling.
These agents have a fixed arrangement with the telephone operators, say, in India, who skip the metering system and establish reverse connections. They call the numbers to be called back home and connect them to the number in the Gulf, thus depriving the telecommunications in both India and the Gulf of the phone revenue. These are popularly called 'hundi' calls.
A reader working in BSNL told Mangalorean.com that he was aware that many expatriates who lecture on morality, corruption and black money by commenting on websites do make use of these 'hundi' calls. They also used to send money by 'hawala' or 'hundi' system, he added.
Another reader who has relatives in the Gulf said he often gets calls from the Gulf, which are routed through Malayalam-speaking telephone operators, but said that he was not aware of the risk involved until told by our correspondent.
The eight youngsters in jail merely happened to take up an accommodation which was earlier occupied by a ring operating the unauthorized call racket. It is said that they quietly quit the place when they got a hint that the Saudi intelligence and telecom network was on their trail.