Commodore, Royal Saudi Navy (Retired)
At the time of submitting this article, I heard two different versions of a tragic story about an Indian maid who came to Saudi Arabia to take care of a 70-year-old Saudi woman who lives alone in an apartment. The Indian woman is 55 years old named Kasturi Munirathinam from Vellore, Tamil Nadu. At first, anyone reading the initial news that came from the Indian side about what happened, would be very annoyed. Now, don’t get me wrong. If the news that came from the Indian side is true then someone has to be held responsible for what has happened and should be dealt with without any mercy. Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj reacted on Twitter: “Chopping of hand of Indian lady — we are very much disturbed over the brutal manner in which Indian lady has been treated in Saudi Arabia.” Now, these are the words of an Indian official, but many had questions about what the foreign minister said. Many asked how can a 70-year-old woman chop off the hand of a 55 years old? It doesn’t only take guts to chop someone’s hand off, but it also needs a lot of strength. Also, there will be strong resistance from the victim. According to the housemaid's sister, Vijayaumari, Kasturi was forced to take up the job abroad as the family was facing financial problems after the marriage of her three daughters. This would have caused mental stress to the maid. On this issue, I have deep sympathy for this poor Indian lady and many of my Saudi friends and relatives have sympathy for her regardless of how she lost her hand. The Saudi side of the story says that she jumped from a three-story building and landed on two electricity boxes, which caused severe damage to her hand. In other words, both the Saudi and Indian versions reveal a sad story about an incident that should be treated in a very respected and responsible manner so as to prevent such an incident from happening again. The media dealing with the case has to stay away from speculation. With speculations and rumors, truth is lost. And we don’t want the truth to be lost. We want thorough investigations into what happened. And this investigation should not start from Riyadh. It has to start from this poor Indian housemaid’s hometown and with all other departments involved in recruiting this woman. The news says that the Indian housemaid was hired only two months before the tragic incident happened. So, if the Saudi side of the story is more accurate one, then what made her try to escape just after two months from her arrival? Also, was she allowed to call home after her arrival? As far as I know, the first thing that a housemaid does after arriving in the Kingdom is to make a call to her family and brief them about her status and welfare. A housemaid makes several such calls informing the family back home about the number of family members in her employer's house and how big is the house. She also makes sure that she gets her first month salary in advance. But, if the Indian side of the story is more accurate then there has to be full investigation and the sponsor has to be held responsible and accountable. Also, the sponsor should be asked: Did he talk to the Indian housemaid through an interpreter about her background and what kind of woman she really is? I mean, how can he or she trust someone who is very depressed to take care of his or her 70 years old mother who lives alone? There are recorded and documented cases that show abuse of young Saudi children and aged Saudis by maids. At the same time there are incidents of abuses by Saudis and bad treatment against their housemaids. These cases of abuse are not only in Saudi Arabia. Such incidents happen all over the world. But, this should not stop us from finding the truth as it is the best way to prevent future tragic incidents. The relation between Saudis and Indians goes back many years. There are millions of Indian expatriates working and living in Saudi Arabia and the Indian community enjoys respect and admiration of the Saudis. Many Saudi editorials have always praised India and the Indians in Saudi Arabia and abroad for their responsible behavior and achievements. At this time an Indian woman is in pain and we have to stand by her and help her. But, we have to stay away from any exchange of blame until the truth is exposed. Irresponsible words will only heighten and widen the gap between the people of Saudi Arabia and India. Written by Abdulateef Al-Mulhim. Tragic Story of an Indian Maid reprinted with permission of Arab News and Abdulateef Al-Mulhim.