Editor’s Note: I was among a handful of journalists who covered the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait that began on August 2, 1990 and the events that followed, leading to the ‘Gulf Storm,’ the First Gulf War to liberate Kuwait. Those five months were more memorable in my career, superseding even the Iran-Iraq war (September 1980 to August 1988) that brought fear and anxiety to the Middle East in general and the Arabian Peninsula in particular.
I will write later about the sleepless nights that I spent covering press conferences held in Bahrain (where I lived and worked), Saudi Arabia and the events that occurred during and after the War in Kuwait. As well as meeting US military officials aboard USS Lincoln, former British Prime Minister Sir John Major and taking helicopter rides to a number of locations, I was reporting the evacuation of Indians from Kuwait via Jordan to India and to a number of other Gulf destinations including Bahrain.
For now, we run the following report by Captain Zain Juvale which challenges ‘Airlift,’ a film by Akshay Kumar that appeared to have stirred the emotions of Hindi film fans around the world. But the real story was something else.
Captain Zain Juvale
‘Airlift’ has made a false claim. It was not the recitation of events as they happened.
There was never an ‘Airlift,’ as portrayed in the movie.
I was the Captain of ‘Safeer,’ a cargo ship in the Kuwaiti waters. I was captured along with my crew at gunpoint and held captives for 35 days in Kuwait.
Through sheer determination, persuasion, and tactful handling of the Iraqi forces, I managed not only to get my crew and ship released but also rescued 725 Indians on board my small cargo ship, through mined waters.
This was the first batch of Indians to be successfully rescued out of Kuwait.
I have a list of all the 725 persons rescued with their passport numbers, and also a letter of thanks signed by all of them, plus my crew of 25.
I also have newspaper clippings of all the International newspapers covering the event, as proof.
Unfortunately, in the past 25 years, successive governments at the Centre and the State levels in India have failed to acknowledge my humanitarian mission, as I defied their warning and went ahead with my mission.
Its success was a slap in the face of the prophets of doom.
Surprisingly, the International shipping fraternity also chose to ignore this event.
But it hurts to know that someone else is claiming credit for rescuing Indians from Kuwait. Unfortunately, the then External Affairs Minister Inder Kumar Gujral is no more. He could have vouched for the facts that I have mentioned in this and other articles appearing and soon to appear in Indian Newslink, as I had a discussion with him regarding my plans, when he briefly visited Kuwait soon after the invasion.
I wrote to Raja Krishna Menon, Director of ‘Airlift,’ when I heard that he was embarking on this project, to get the facts from me. But he never bothered to reply.
Editor’s Note: I was fortunate to speak to Mr Gujral over the phone in Baghdad when he asked me to break the news to the world that ‘India had decided to close its Embassy in Kuwait,’ which was declared by Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein as the 19th Province of his country. I did so and the news item became a sensation throughout the world. Three days later, on his return to India, Mr Gujral confirmed my report in Lok Sabha.