Sudan conflict: Indian herbal medicine sellers seek rescue

Image caption,Prabhu S (right) is stranded with several others from the Hakki-Pikki tribe

By Imran Qureshi

BBC Hindi

Around 3,000 Indians are estimated to be stranded in Sudan amid fierce fighting between the country’s army and a paramilitary force.

This number includes around 100 people from the Hakki-Pikki tribe – a nomadic tribe from the southern state of Karnataka – who were in Sudan to sell herbal medicine and products.

Their plight had sparked a political row in India after the country’s foreign minister, S Jaishankar, accused an opposition Congress leader of “playing politics” when he tweeted a request to ensure their safe return to India. Elections in Karnataka will be held next month.

BBC Hindi spoke to some members of the Hakki-Pikki tribe in Sudan, who said they are living in fear and have little access to necessities such as food and water.

While most of them are in the capital Khartoum – where the clashes are intense – others are in the western city of Al-Fashir, 1,000km away from the capital.

The fighting, which has been raging since last week, is the result of a power struggle between Sudan’s regular army and a paramilitary unit called the Rapid Support Forces.

The death toll caused by the fighting is unclear, but the Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors (CCSD) said on Tuesday that at least 174 civilians had been killed in the violence.

“It is extremely scary. Heavy firing takes place nearby, mainly in the mornings and evenings. It continues late into the night,” says Prabhu S, a member of the Hakki-Pikki tribe who is in Al-Fashir.

“`We are living in a hotel where the employees went away five days ago, soon after the fighting started,” says Sanju Pitaji, who is stuck in Khartoum.

“We are surviving on some leftover bread and drinking water from the tap in the washroom. Ten of us are living in this room,” he says.

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