Eastern Eye (UK)

Panorama alleges India role in ‘kidnapping’ of Dubai princess



THE BBC’s flagship programme claimed last week that Indian commandos “kidnapped” Princess Latifa from her boat near the coast of Goa and allowed the drugged captive to be flown back in a private plane to her father, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai.

Footage recorded by the princess from her bathroom in a villa in Dubai, where she says she was held prisoner and was in fear of her life, was aired as part of the show.

It also included a statement: “The government of India has still never commented on its involvemen­t in the events of March 2018.”

The UN high commission­er for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, has taken up Latifa’s case, while the British prime minister, Boris Johnson, has expressed concern about her.

Immediatel­y after The Missing Princess was shown on the BBC, the foreign secretary Dominic Raab said: “I think it’s deeply troubling. And you can see a young woman in deep distress.”

He admitted Latifa was not a British national, but added: “I think anyone at the human level would watch the footage and be concerned about it.”

Buckingham Palace has made it clear that Sheikh Mohammed will no longer be welcome to the Queen’s enclosure when he attends horse racing in England – as he has in the past.

Oxford University, too, is feeling the heat. It is being


urged to “review” the £7.2 billion donation it accepted from Dubai to set up scholarshi­ps in the ruler’s name.

The university said in a statement: “The agreement between the university and Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum Knowledge Foundation was signed in 2016 and we have no plans to review or change the scholarshi­p at this time.”

Under mounting internatio­nal pressure, Dubai’s royal family has released a statement stating that “the princess is being cared for at home by her family with the support of medical experts,” and that “she is getting better. We are hopeful that she will return at the right time to the public eye.”

But a spokespers­on for Bachelet said: “We asked for proof of life.”

A number of questions are now being asked about India’s role in the incident, which has not been denied by New Delhi.

The obvious one is, why did India agree Sheikh Mohammed get his daughter back?

Analysts in London say India has deep strategic, political, security and economic interests in Dubai – “the city is practicall­y a second Mumbai with a big Bollywood presence” – and could not therefore say no to its ruler.

The other question is, how did the Indian commandos know where to look for Latifa’s yacht?

This appears to have been answered by Latifa’s Finnish friend and one-time capoeira instructor, Tiina Jauhiainen, who helped the princess escape

to help from her confined existence at the end of February 2018. There were spotters planes apparently looking for Latifa.

In a weekend article, she said this was the second time that Latifa, now 35, had tried to flee.

“Latifa’s escape bid was no more successful,” she said. “I had helped her make preparatio­ns and was by her side when, three years ago, she fled Dubai via Oman and set sail for India.

“Just eight days into our voyage, we saw planes overhead and realised that we were being followed. We were captured by Indian commandos who threw me to the floor in a pool of blood, tied my hands behind my back and threatened to shoot me in the head. Latifa was dragged off, kicking and screaming.

“I was taken back to the UAE and, after being threatened with the death penalty, eventually freed. I now live in Britain. But Latifa had no such luck.”

She told Panorama of what happened at midnight on March 4, 2018: “Myself and Latifa were tired. So around 10 o’clock in the evening, we decided to go down to our cabin to get some sleep. We started hearing noises from the upper deck, which sounded like gunshots.

“Basically, the boat was taken over by Indian Special Forces. Lots of people. She was saying, ‘Oh my god, oh my god, they’re here.’ She continued screaming and kicking and trying to get away. That’s the last time I see my friend.”

Latifa took up the story in the videos shown on Panorama: “They kidnapped me on March 4, 2018, on the small boat. I don’t know how many commandos, maybe 12-15, and the two Emirati like lieutenant­s-sergeants.

“I was fighting. And this guy came with a small camouflage pouch. And he took out the needle and he injected me in my arm and I was fighting. I was saying, ‘Don’t do that. Don’t do that. Don’t do that.’ And I just assumed it was tranquilis­ers, but it didn’t take any effect on me.”

Voiceover: “Latifa says she was transferre­d to an Indian military ship.”

Latifa continued her account: “The commandos carried me through this corridor and to a big room.

And there was in front of me maybe four or five generals. So I’m repeating to them, ‘My name is Latifa …I wanted to get asylum. I was in internatio­nal waters. You should let me go.’ But they did not stop.

“I see a private jet in front of me at that point. said, ‘No. I’m not going to voluntaril­y go.’”

Voiceover: “She says she was then manhandled by an Emirati commando.”

Latifa went on: “He grabs me, and he lifts me up. And (I was) kicking and fighting, and he’s much bigger than me. I see his sleeves rolled up and his arm is exposed. So I just bite him as hard as I can, and shake my head. And he screamed. The same guy tranquilis­ed me again.

“They put me on a stretcher. And as they were carrying me up the steps of the private jet I passed out, I lost consciousn­ess. When I woke up, the private jet had already landed in Dubai. I just felt really sad at that point. Working for so many years to get my freedom was gone.”

Earlier, she had described her conditions of captivity in Dubai: “This video is from a bathroom because this is the only room with the door locked. So I’m in a villa. And I’m a hostage. And this villa has been converted into a jail – the windows are barred shut. I can’t open any window. There are five policemen outside and two inside the house. And I can’t even go outside to get any fresh air.

“I don’t know when I’ll be released. Every day I am worried about my safety in my life. I don’t really know if I’m going to survive the situation.”

WHEN we were both due to speak as part of an Internatio­nal Women’s Day (IWD) debate at the House of Lords in March 2017 hosted by Lord and Lady Popat, we arrived not really knowing what to expect.

We had not previously attended a parliament­ary debate. Indeed, this was one of the organisers’ objectives – to give a chance to others who do not get to walk those historyste­eped halls daily to share their platform with the voices of women so often left unheard, particular­ly in our community.

We left that day full of inspiratio­n, gratitude and, like others who were lucky enough to attend, determined to drive positive change for all women – in our family, community, workplace and more broadly.

The following year, we contacted Lord and Lady Popat to find out what their plans were. They were delighted with the interest and asked if we would like to take on a stronger role going forward. So with councillor Ameet Jogia, Lord Popat’s parliament­ary assistant, the five of us have made a powerful team. Each year the IWD event in the iconic Houses of Parliament has grown in influence.

Moving from the Lords to the Commons, we have broadened the diversity of speakers to represent all types of women – different racial groups, ages, socio-economic background­s, sexualitie­s and life experience­s. We have aligned to the most pressing topics of the day, balancing inspiratio­nal personal stories with expert accounts from those at the very top of their fields. Speakers have included businesswo­man and campaigner Gina Miller; renowned Indian fashion designer Sabyasachi; global Instagram influencer Diipa Khosla; and Tracey Ford, who lost her son to gang violence.

This year, we welcome 12 changemake­rs who will speak for five minutes each as is traditiona­l parliament­ary protocol. They include 13-year-old Khloe Thompson, an internatio­nal philanthro­pist; best-selling author Jay Shetty; the CEOs of NatWest Group Alison Rose and Starling Bank, Anne Boden; Anya Hindmarch CBE; Baroness Minouche Shafique and Yamina Karitanyi, high commission­er for Rwanda. Themes range from entreprene­urship to innovation, finance to fashion, transgende­rism, black lives matter and youth violence.

This event is more important than ever. The impact of Covid-19 on our world has been unimaginab­le in our lifetimes. Already

evidence shows not only that women have been more disadvanta­ged than men, and in particular, women of colour, but that their voices are also being left out of the conversati­on and the reshaping of our future world post-Covid. A silver lining is that our virtual event this year will reach many more. We invite each of you to join us.

This year’s Internatio­nal Women’s Day event will be held virtually on Friday, March 5, from 1pm-2.30pm. To attend, register through the link https://bit.ly/3qxQLrO. For details on the event and discussion­s, visit https://bit.ly/3rFvTPw

 ??  ?? ROYAL RESPONSE: The Queen with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of the emirate of Dubai (below), in 2010
ROYAL RESPONSE: The Queen with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of the emirate of Dubai (below), in 2010
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 ??  ?? © Giuseppe Cacace/ AFP via Getty Images
© Giuseppe Cacace/ AFP via Getty Images
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 ??  ?? Rupal Kantaria
Rupal Kantaria
 ??  ?? Rupa Popat
Rupa Popat

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