Aug. 25: Almost 48 hours after 12 Indians were forced off a Mumbai-bound US flight and detained in Amsterdam, Delhi woke up to the political costs of continued inaction and rapped the Dutch.
The foreign office summoned Dutch ambassador Eric Niehe today, hours after the suspects’ release last night, to tell him the way the 12 were treated “was not in conformity with the friendly relations between the two countries”.
“It should have never happened,” junior foreign minister Anand Sharma told reporters. “Our views have been conveyed at the highest level to the Dutch government. Their ambassador has expressed regret.”
The detainees, held on Wednesday after their “suspicious” behaviour caused the flight from Minneapolis to be turned back to Amsterdam under F-16 escort, tonight left for Mumbai, their hometown.
Government sources said the decision to summon Niehe was taken this morning by the Prime Minister, who had days ago met Muslim leaders and promised to ensure that the community was no longer identified with terrorism or harassed by police.
With the Dutch absolving the detainees of terrorism charges and the media highlighting allegations of racial profiling, there was no way Delhi “could not have acted”, a government source said.
Sonia Gandhi, too, reportedly told party colleagues that what happened was “very bad”, reflecting worries in the Congress about the fallout on next year’s Uttar Pradesh polls, where Muslim votes will be crucial.
Angry families of the detainees have demanded a written apology from the Dutch. Relatives of some of the 12 hinted at moving court but many lawyers said the options are limited.
“I know the Dutch diplomat has conveyed regrets to the government, but we want them to send us a written apology,” said Sanober, sister of detainee Shakeel Usman Chhotani.
Hasina, wife of Yusuf Haji Gaffar Memon, agreed. “He is a businessman and would be travelling many more times. We feel a written apology absolving him is necessary.”
Delhi said the “manner” of the detainees’ treatment by the Dutch had been “objectionable”. The 12 men are understood to have given the details to the Indian charge d’affairs in The Hague.
Niehe, told that such actions could “lead to presumption of (racial) profiling”, denied the charge but promised to report back after ascertaining the facts.