She was known for extending help to all Indians and other foreign nationals across world.
New Delhi: Former external affairs minister and BJP veteran Sushma Swaraj, who passed away on Tuesday night, was known as India’s ‘supermom’. In the steely world of politics, her’s was the human and humane touch that left many lives grateful.
On Tuesday night, Swaraj breathed her last at AIIMS leaving behind her the golden legacy of rockstar statesmanship. She was known for extending help to all Indians and other foreign nationals across world.
Here are a few incidents:
- Geeta, the 22-year-old girl, was brought back to India from Pakistan in 2015. She was stuck in Pakistan for 14 years and the news came to light after the release of Salman Khan starrer Bajrangi Bhaijaan.
Founder of Edhi Foundation Bilquis Edhi, a social welfare organisation in Pakistan who was taking care of the girl, named her Geeta. She is also called Guddi. She was reportedly just 7 or 8 years old when she was found sitting alone on the Samjhauta Express by the Pakistan Rangers at the Lahore railway station, later she was adopted by Edhi.
- In 2017, Shahzaib Iqbal from Lahore tweeted, "After ALLAH you are our last hope.. kindly allow Islamabad embassy (meaning Indian High Commission) to issue us medical visa." In response, Swaraj had tweeted, "India will not belie your hope. We will issue the visa immediately." Iqbal, thus, was granted medical visa for his cousin’s liver transplant in 2017.
- Under her supervision, almost 5,000 Indians were brought back home from Yemen. The operation which was named ‘Raahat’ saw the return of at least a thousand foreign nationals as well.
As Yemen was not accessible due to a no-fly zone, India chose Djibouti as a centre for initial evacuation by sea. Indians in Yemen were advised to reach Sana'a and Aden. The Indian Navy redeployed the patrol vessel INS Sumitra from anti-piracy operations off the coast of Lakshadweep to the Yemeni port of Aden. It also dispatched the destroyer INS Mumbai and frigate INS Tarkash from Mumbai to provide protection and support to Indian ships and aircraft in the conflict zone.
On April 1, 2015, INS Sumitra reached Aden to evacuate 349 Indians. When Air India was permitted to fly to Yemen on 3 April 2015, it started evacuating people from Sana'a to Djibouti and Djibouti to Mumbai or Kochi. Over the days more than 4,640 overseas Indians were evacuated along with 960 foreign nationals of more than 41 countries. Out of a total of 5,600 people, 2,900 Indians were evacuated by 18 special flights from Sana'a and 1,670 Indians by Indian Navy ships from four ports.
- In 2017, Sushma Swaraj also assured medical visas to two other Pakistani nationals seeking medical visas.
"Yes. We will give you the medical visa," she said in response to a request from Sajida Baksh who said that she underwent a liver transplant but developed complications and needed urgent follow-up.
- She also played a stellar role in bringing back Malayalee nurses who were held captive by ISIS insurgents in Iraq.
According to the then spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Swaraj, who was on her way to Bhopal, cancelled her visit midway to return to Delhi and led the diplomatic efforts to rescue the nurses. Besides being in touch with her counterparts in all major Gulf countries, she also opened informal channels to reach out to ISIS and other warring groups in Iraq.
Her efforts were lauded by the then Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, who was camping in New Delhi at the time of crisis. Filmmaker Mahesh Narayanan made a movie ‘Take Off’ to narrate the diplomatic victory and the evacuation of nurses.
- In 2017, Swaraj won hearts of many by deciding to grant a year-long visa to a Pakistani girl, Shireen Shiraz, for open heart surgery. In the same year, another Pakistani national, Naseem Akhtar, was granted visa on the request of her son Ali Asadullah for a liver transplant surgery.
- Farah Naz, a woman from Hyderabad was trafficked to Oman on the pretext of a job in the Gulf country. Naz was received by some unknown man who sent her to a remote area. Naz’s mother wrote a letter to Sushma Swaraj. After she intervened, the Indian embassy in Muscat came into action and Naz’s return to Hyderabad was ensured.
- In 2016, Indian aid worker Judith D’Souza was rescued more than a month after she was kidnapped in Kabul. Judith’s parents appealed to the government to get their daughter back. Her father said, "The Indian embassy in Kabul called up to inform about her abduction. They said they think that she has been abducted."
"My daughter was in Kabul for the past one year and before that, she had worked at a number of places. She had worked with United Nations; she had several appointments at various places," he added.
Sushma Swaraj then assured the D'Souza’s of all help. Taking to Twitter, Swaraj said, "I have spoken to the sister of Judith D' Souza. We will spare no efforts to rescue her. She is your sister and India's daughter. We are doing everything to rescue her. Pl take care of your sick father.”
Announcing the news, Sushma Swaraj said, “I am happy to inform you that Judith D'souza has been rescued,” on her Twitter account.