Two Indians, who were freed from illegal custody of Chinese traders three months ago, today went on a hunger strike in Shanghai, demanding that they be allowed to go home within a week failing which they will commit suicide.
In the emails sent to the media on the eve of the BRICS summit in New Delhi attended by Chinese President Hu Jintao, Deepak Raheja and Shyam Sunder Agrawal threatened to commit suicide one after another if they were not sent back to India within a week.
They said from Shanghai over phone that they have been asked by the hotel where they are staying to vacate it last night due to non-payment of dues.
The Indian government which has been paying them maintenance allowance earlier has stopped it and they had no money to pay, they said.
“Right now we are on the roads and we have no money. We have no other option to resort to these extreme steps,” said Raheja, who is an Indian settled in Dubai.
The two, who claims to be the employees of trading firm in China’s trade hub Yiwu, were released from the illegal custody with the help of the Indian officials on January 4.
They were taken into custody last December by the Chinese traders after the owner of the firm fled along with his Indian associate without paying USD 1.5 million outstanding dues.
The duo were held in custody for about 15 days by the local traders. They were subsequently released after the Indian government intervention and kept in Shanghai as they were required to prove their claim that they were only employees not partners of the company.
Their travel documents have been seized by the Chinese court.
According to the Indian officials here, the Consulate in Shanghai has so far spent about 43,600 RMB (about USD 7000) on their maintenance and they have no authorisation to spend more.
Raheja said they received 4000 RMB few days ago but it was used to pay their hotel bills. He said they needed USD 128 per day for maintenance.
The two said they also have health problems.
Besides arranging legal help and spending on their maintenance including health check-ups, Indian officials here said their case has been taken up at various levels with the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
As result their case has been shifted to a higher court, Jinhua where the two presented their case with evidence that they were employees and awaited the court verdict.
The Indian officials here say they have been taking up their case vigorously at various levels.
External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, who met the two during his visit here last month, took up their plight with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi during their talks here.
Krishna also raised the issue when the Chinese Minister visited New Delhi early this month.
Sources in the Indian Embassy here said that a senior Indian diplomat met a high level functionary of the Foreign Ministry here three days ago and asked the Chinese government to speed legal procedures to enable the two to go home.
“The issue is being constantly pursued by the embassy.
The Chinese officials maintain that the legal process is underway as their case was taken up by the court,” one Indian official told PTI.
They said they have urged the Chinese government to allow the duo to go home as they find it very difficult to stay here.
They could return whenever the court wants them, an official said.
The Indian Embassy here also put out an advisory highlighting the problems about trading at Yiwu, which is the world’s biggest commodity market.
The two wrote in their e-mail that the Indian government has spent Rs 205 crore on the foreign visits of President Pratibha Patil and why can’t they be provided with some maintenance allowance until their case is sorted out.