At least 31 people from Karnataka are stranded at Al-Fashir, the capital of North Darfur wilayat — or state — in civil war-torn Sudan.
The state government has informed the Union Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) of the people stranded in the Northeast African country.
“We received a message that a group of 31 people from Karnataka are stranded in Sudan. We have asked the group to follow the instructions of the Indian Embassy in Sudan,” Dr Manoj Ranjan, Commissioner of Karnataka State Disaster Management Authority (KSDMA), said in a statement on Tuesday, 18 April.
“As of now the stranded people should stay wherever they are and should not venture outdoors. They should go by the Indian Embassy’s directives. The MEA is seized of the matter and is working on it,” he added.
IPS officer in Sudan
Director General and Inspector General of Police Praveen Sood told South First that a senior police officer from the state has been monitoring the situation of Kannadigas stranded in Sudan.
“One of our SP-ranked officers, Shruthi, is a part of the UN peace corps. She is in Sudan, overseeing the situation of the people from the state stranded there,” he said.
Close to 200 people, including an Indian national, have been killed so far in the clashes between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the country’s powerful government paramilitary force, Rapid Support Forces.
The Indian, Albert Augustine of Alakode in Kerala’s Kannur district, was killed by a stray bullet while he was speaking on the phone in his flat on Saturday, 15 April.
Though the civil war has been raging in Sudan for some time, clashes spilled over to Al-Fashir for the first time three days ago.
Karnataka man seeks Centre’s intervention
Civilians have been forced to remain indoors without water and other essentials amid ringing gunshots, KSDMA sources said.
A video that went viral on social media showed a Kannada-speaking man in a walled house where he along with many other Kannadigas were staying.
He said that all of them have been without water for drinking and cooking, and also food was scarce ever since the clashes broke out in Al-Fashir three days ago.
The Kannadigas had reached Al-Fashir for work 10 days ago. He said that of the 31 staying in the compound, seven were from Shivamogga, five from Channagiri in the Davangere district, and 19 from Hunsur in Mysuru.
Seven among the 31 people were Hakki-Pikki tribesmen, he said, adding that a policeman at the compound had warned them of possible heavy shelling.
The man also said several other Kannadigas, too, were stranded in the neighbouring localities. He requested the Indian government to evacuate them.
Siddaramaiah highlights Hakki-Pikkis’ plight
Senior Congress leader Siddaramaiah, on Tuesday, demanded that the Centre initiate steps to bring back the 31 people from Karnataka.
“It is reported that 31 people from Karnataka belonging to Hakki Pikki tribe, are stranded in Sudan which is troubled by civil war. I urge @PMOIndia @narendramodi, @HMOIndia, @MEAIndia and @BSBommai to immediately intervene & ensure their safe return,” Siddaramaiah tweeted.
It is reported that 31 people from Karnataka belonging to Hakki Pikki tribe, are stranded in Sudan which is troubled by civil war.
— Siddaramaiah (@siddaramaiah) April 18, 2023
The Hakki-Pikkis in Sudan have been left stranded without food for the past few days and the government has not yet initiated action to bring them back, the CLP leader alleged.
Siddaramaiah urged the central government to immediately open diplomatic discussions and reach out to international agencies to ensure the well-being of Hakki-Pikkis.
Hakki-Pikkis, or bird catchers, are a semi-nomadic tribal community residing mostly in South Karnataka.
“It is also unfortunate to know that we have lost one Indian in the ongoing civil war in Sudan. My deepest condolences to their families,” Siddaramaiah stated.
Power struggle in Sudan
At least 185 people have been killed and over 1,800 wounded since the fighting erupted in Sudan.
The sudden outbreak of violence began over the weekend between the nation’s two top power-hungry generals — the army chief, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, and his deputy, the paramilitary commander Lt Gen Mohamed Hamdan.
Each of them has been backed by tens of thousands of heavily armed fighters.
People have been stuck in their homes or shelters. Supplies have been running low and several hospitals and medical facilities were forced to shut down — some of them even destroyed in bombings.
The two sides are using tanks, artillery, and other heavy weapons in densely populated areas. Fighter jets swooped overhead and anti-aircraft fire lit up the skies as night fell.
According to official data, Sudan has around 4,000 Indians, including 1,200 who have settled in that country decades ago.