This Article is authored by Advocate Anil Malhotra.
Reportedly, a 40 mile convoy of Russian tanks and armored vehicles advances on Kyiv to topple Ukraine Government on Day 6 of War entering a brutal ugly phase. Estimated 16,000 Indians stranded in Ukraine in bunkers and underground Metro stations at Kharkiv, are at grave risk to die of freezing cold, if not gunfire. The first Indian student casualty, a shocking death, had stepped out of a bunker to purchase food and exchange currency. Stranded at about 1400 kilometers from borders of European countries, their chances of evacuation on their own are bleak. Appeals on social media of heart wrenching accounts of Indian students are painfully grim.
Accounts indicate that Russians have started targeting civilian buildings. Reportedly, Indian Embassy office has been set up in Lviv, after the entire Embassy staff is said to have left the capital of Ukraine at Kyiv. Reports indicate that the left behind Indian students are now to fend for themselves. Others seen in a video, depicted hundreds of Indian students on their own and facing snowing for 72 hours, stuck in open on Romanian border. Those reaching train stations to reach the Polish border from Lviv, faced opposition from jampacked Ukrainian refugees forcing them out. Deputing Indian Ministers at Poland, Romania and Hungary, 1600 kilometers away may offer little solace to those in underground isolation in Kharkiv without food, money or transportation. Russia has asked all civilians to abandon Kyiv as it would be hit by high precision weapons. A thermobaric rocket launcher with 24 chambers fires volleys of vacuum bombs spraying a mist of fuel, which on detonation creates fireballs sucking oxygen from the hit air, causing total destruction. Heavens, beware.
The air space for civilian aircrafts in Ukraine is closed following the Russian attack. Access to borders by train or taxis is the only route. Indian advisories asking to leave are at own high risk, and entail a 15 hour journey from Kharkiv to Lviv, followed by a foot journey to reach Polish border. Impossible tasks, fraught with critical danger to life, are at peril for Indians. Those reaching Romanian border were not allowed by Ukraine troops to pass. Videos depict jostling Indian students being hit with guns and boots. Those lucky to return talk of a “living hell” and decry about unresponded please to Indian officials. Commissioning Indian Airforce transport planes may help only those who reach Budapest, Bucharest or Warsaw. The critical horror is the safety of Indian nationals still stuck at Kharkiv on their own.
India’s neutrality as a fence sitter at the UNSC, must now come into play. Killing of the Indian youth has put desolate parents on the edge. Nobody knows what to do. The media highlights horror stories exposing bleak and gloomy realties. Appeals by individuals and institutions seeking safe evacuation of Indians need resolution. Those stuck in the conflict zone need to be bailed out. Civilian casualties from Russian bombing of populated urban areas leaves devastated hidden Indian nationals in morbid fear. Indian humanitarian appeals to Russia and Ukraine to bail out Indians and stop bombing till civilians are evacuated is a plausible solution. This ceasefire coupled with a safe corridor on Russian assurances can save young Indian lives.
As of now, risky air strikes, unpredictable troop movements, lack of food, water and resources, make travel from Kharkiv to Poland, Hungary and Romania, 1600 kilometers away, an impossibility. Coming out of bunkers, entails death. The easiest suggested solution of an exit from Ukraine is through Belgorod International Airport, Russia, which is about 100 kilometers from well connected roads from Kharkiv. This necessitates intervention of Indian diplomats to convince Ukrainian armed forces to offer safe cover passage to stranded Indians at Kharkiv to reach Belgorod. Simultaneously, Indian diplomacy must prevail over Russian counterparts to allow Indians to enter without Russian visas, as was done by Poland, Hungary and Romania. Indian diplomats can verify antecedents of Indians entering Russia. For India, the battle can be won, while the war rages. Tender Indian lives cannot be put at stake. Indian Government must act immediately for an action plan. Any further delay can be seriously deleterious. Humanitarian pleadings can avert a catastrophe and calamity which may befall Indian youth, whose well wishers beseech and implore Indian Government intervention as the last ray of hope for the safety of their progeny. Somebody must listen, act, implement and hasten the safe passage of their return. Mandate of Protection of Human Rights Act, besides Right to Life and Personal Liberty under Constitution for Indian citizens must be guaranteed by Indian Government. It is neither an optional or negotiable prerogative of Indians.