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Indians take chartered flights, flee Kenya

ibnlive.com
Jan 02, 2008 at 09:28pm IST

New Delhi: The Indian community in Kenya is organising chartered flights so that they can leave Kisumu where thousands of people have taken shelter to escape the violence that has engulfed the country following the presidential elections.

More than 1,000 ethnic Indian have already left Kisumu while about 400 Gujaratis have taken shelter in a Swaminarayan temple in the town, which is located in western part of Kenya.

Most of those who fled from Kisumu have gone to Nairobi and Kampala, which is the capital of Uganda.

GRAVE SITUATION: Opposition supporters hold machetes and sticks during riots in the Mathare slum in Nairobi.

Hindu Council of Kenya's Dhanraj Sarvayya said that though there is a great sense of insecurity among the Indians but he was quick to add that ethnic Indians have not been targeted.

"Kenya is not Uganda and Indians have not been attacked. Only their shops were looted. The Hindu Council has asked the community to take shelter in religious places, be they temples, mosques, gurudwaras," Sarvayya said.

He also added that they are also in touch with the British and the Indian High Commissions and have asked them to prepare for any emergency.

The Council also reiterated that there has been no loss of life or injury to any Asian in Kenya. It specifically mentioned that reports appearing in the Indian media about Gujaratis being targeted or an Asian being killed were untrue.

Meanwhile the Indian government, too, has said that there are no reports of any attack on the Indians though some properties belonging to the community have been damaged.

''All PIOs are safe and unharmed...There have been no reports of any Person of Indian Origin subjected to violence or physical harm. The violence is not directed against the Asian community or Persons of Indian Origin,'' an External Affairs Ministry spokesman was quoted as saying by UNI in New Delhi on Wednesday.

The spokesman said India was actively watching the situation in the country and the High Commissioner to Kenya, PS Randhawa, was in touch with the Indian community leaders.

He said there had been cases of looting but the violence was not targetted against the Indian or the Asian community. ''It is because of their internal problems,'' he added.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, too, has expressed his concern over attacks on Gujarati expatriates in Kenya.

Modi wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging him to ensure their safety in that country and asked the PM to take up the issue with the Kenyan Government to ensure safety of Gujaratis in Kenya.

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In his letter, Modi voiced concern over the safety of about 400 Gujaratis who have taken shelter in a temple in Kisumu.

"I request the Indian Government to immediately beef up security for our Indian brothers in Kenya. Indian youth in Kenya who want to return should be brought back, and if required through the sea route or they should be taken to Nirobi and arrangements made for their stay there. Since their houses have been burnt, missing documents must be overlooked and they should be allowed to move to safer areas without any hitch, keeping in mind their Indian blood," said Modi.

Ever since post-election riots broke out in Kenya, the Gujarati Diaspora has been living in fear.

Hundreds of Gujarati businessmen have taken shelter in a temple in the Kenyan town of Kisumu after the violence.

Offices and factories belonging to Gujaratis had been looted and their houses attacked by residents.

With defeated Kenyan presidential challenger Raila Odinga sticking to his guns after an allegedly rigged election and freshly re-elected President Mwai Kibaki vowing to assert his authority, the east African nation is locked in a crippling crisis.

Scores of people were killed and several thousand have fled after President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner in a disputed election. The estimated death toll has risen to about 250 till Wednesday.

Police beat protesters and flushed looters out of buildings in Nairobi's Kibera slum, which is within opposition leader Raila Odinga's constituency.

Kenyan opposition supporters burnt houses in Nairobi's Korogocho slum as police fired teargas and shots in the air to disperse the crowd.

Much of the fighting pitched Luos, who support opposition leader Raila Odinga, against Kibaki's ethnic Kikuyu group.

There are about 43,000 Gujaratis in Nairobi and about 3,000 in Kisumu.

(With inputs from agencies)

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