While watching Argo, the Hollywood thriller about evacuation of 6 American citizens from Iran, one question which continued to haunt us was – would Indian government do something like this for us, naah, who puts in so much effort to save Indians?
But thanks to Akshay Kumar, Raja Menon and Nikhil Advani, we now know that India was responsible for the biggest ever air evacuation in history. Their movie, Airlift, which will hit the theatres on 22nd January, is the story of the evacuation of Indians who were trapped when Kuwait was invaded by Iraq in 1990.
The movie is a tribute to the amazing feat achieved by the Indian government. In the film, Akshay Kumar plays the role of Ranjit Katyal, an Indian business tycoon based out of Kuwait, who inevitably becomes responsible for the lives of the fellow Indians in Kuwait.
With little over a week left for the release of Airlift – the anticipation is at an all time high. As the country is gearing up to witness the movie, we revisited the events that happened 25 years ago.
The facts about the evacuation will make you, as Akshay puts, ‘proud to be an Indian’:
1. Soon after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, no country was willing to touch Iraq, let alone visit Saddam Hussain. But I.K Gujral, who was the external affairs minister at that time, visited Iraq and worked out an evacuation plan for Indians stranded in Kuwait.
2. Members of Indian community tactfully arranged meetings with Saddam and took approvals to take Indians out of Kuwait by bus. They were driven to Amman, Jordan, from where flights were arranged.
3. Initially, Indians were being flown out by Air Force planes, but the process was slow and lives of thousands were at stake. That’s when Air India was brought into the picture.
4. 1,70,000 people were rescued from Kuwait through 488 commercial flights in a operation that was carried out over a period of 59 days
5. Believe it or not, the Maharaja airline actually made news for the right reasons. Air India was the first ever commercial airline to evacuate this many people and made it to the Guinness book of world records.
6. Iraqis had a soft corner for Indians – well, we know that one is a surprise, but yes, Iraqis were not too harsh on Indians. There were others like Palestinians who were put through the worst and their situation had become so desperate that they resorted to looting and stealing. Thank god for small mercies!
We are waiting for to watch this one!