Madhuvanthi Srinivasan / MUMBAI
Halit Sun, an engineer from Istanbul, landed in India on Jan. 16. With barely two weeks of work pending, things took an ugly turn when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a nationwide lockdown for 21 days in the wake of the situation around the Coronavirus pandemic. Amid the lockdown & the gradual restrictions on the movement of international flights in and out of India, Halit is one of the 65 Turkish nationals stranded across the country.
Speaking to Duvar English, Halit said he was on a work visit to the town of Bhilwara in the north Indian state of Rajasthan. “Things were very normal till last week and none of us anticipated the lockdown coming,” he said. The lockdown, which is being hailed as the largest in the world, has kept over a billion Indians in their homes for three weeks. The stranded Turks are all said to be in touch with each other through a WhatsApp group and were in India for multiple reasons ranging from work to education.
Halit mentions of fears over a potential continuation of the lockdown by the Indian government, which is due to end on April 15. This was also raised by Özgür Şendir in his video on Twitter where he says, “There seems to be a great possibility that the lockdown could continue. For how long, nobody knows.” Apart from this, both, Halit Sun and Özgür Şendir mention of floating rumors that foreign nationals are being taken to hospitals, by the police, as suspected carriers of the infection. “When others go out for shopping groceries & basic food, they’re quite worried to be noticed by the police. In fact, those who’ve reached India, two weeks ago, are being checked for symptoms by the police, almost every day,” said Halit.
While the Turkish Embassy in New Delhi has taken down the information of those stranded and are accessible via an emergency line, they’ve asked everybody to stay wherever they are till things improve. The Turkish Ambassador to India, Nepal, Maldives and Bhutan- Şakir Torunlar, in an interview to Anadolu Agency, said, “I strongly recommend our citizens to adhere to the measures implemented by the country they are located in, for their health and for the health of their relatives. As an ambassador, as a friend, as a brother, I request our citizens to take care of their health and not leave their place.”
With heart patients among those left behind, with some not even financially prepared to survive the lockdown, Halit says, “We’re completely unaware of what the future holds.” In a video tweet with the hashtag "HindistandakiTürklerTahliyeBekliyor" roughly translated as Turks in India are waiting for an evacuation, Özgür says, “We request an urgent evacuation of all Turkish nationals from India. May the government hear us. We want to return to our country and to our families. I have a three and a half year-old daughter. She misses me a lot. For her, please pass on this message."