Here Are The Real list Of Heroes Who Did Airlift 1.7 Lakh Indians From Kuwait, Not Alone Ranjit Katyal

Considering how easily pop culture depictions can replace history, it is important to identify and edify the men behind the world’s biggest rescue airlift.

1. Tony Jashanmal

Tony Jashanmal

Currently CEO of Jashanmal National Company, one of the biggest Indian retail and wholesale outlets in the Gulf region, Jashanmal  was appointed head of an executive committee that provided food, shelter and escape from a quickly escalating war zone, he personally coordinated 15-16 flights everyday to India from Jordan. In 2003, he spoke to Rediff.com about his role in the operation, which included regular 600 km trips to Baghdad, moving consignments of food from Baghdad. "It was good that we had several Indian food merchants and they were quite good. We managed to get food from them in the required quantities. "We made a packet of ten products, like rice and oil, sugar, tea, dal. It was ten products and we made a packet enough to last a family of four for one-and-a-half months. 

Facing fleeting Jordanian support, he also pulled strings with the Dubai Indian business council, "After three or four days I went down and had lunch with the Indian business council in Dubai. Then they all started helping…we needed water in the day time for the heat and we needed blankets and tents at night for the cold…Our communities in Dubai, Qatar and Bahrain all helped a lot.”

In the Indian Foreign Affairs Journal ( January-March 2011), K.P. Fabian recalls the unconditional support given to him by K.T.B Menon. “I recall another incident, when one Mr. K.T.B. Menon called me on 2 August, saying that if finances were the problem he would pay for the air passage of any Indian who wished to leave. “KTB” was the richest Indian in Kuwait. His generosity touched us. He is no more and I do not know whether the Government honoured him for his gesture.” 

Menon was a Kuwait-based Indian business tycoon; he was reportedly also the “third Indian to come to Kuwait, and founded an “industrial empire specialising in major electrification projects and construction of water desalination plants.”

It is not known how much money he donated, but the gesture was a bold one certainly priceless in a time of such desperation.

3. Inder Kumar Gujral

Inder Kumar Gujral

Unlike the film’s depiction of diplomatic silence, Indian government representatives Inder Kumar Gujral, former MEA Minister and KP Fabian, head of Gulf Division, MEA  officials met with Saddam Hussein to achieve repatriation for Indian nationals: “We conveyed our official viewpoint and also our plans to evacuate our nationals. He listened to our views and repeated his known position, and agreed to facilitate the repatriation of our nationals,” Fabian remembers. I. K. Gujral soon laid the blueprint for the rescue operation.  The Indian MEA knew that Iraq did not have enough supplies to feed its own, agreed to grant Indians safe passage to neighbouring Jordan. 

4. KP Fabian (Indian Embassy)

KP Fabian (Indian Embassy)

Working closely with Gujral, Joint Secretary (Gulf Division, Ministry of External Affairs) coordinated the evacuation initiative. This involved working with officers across Ministries working in the Gulf, and respond to the needs of the stranded people in Kuwait. He also was personally responsible in keeping the Air India crew motivated in this emergency that the government never had prepared any contingencies for.

5. Mathunny Mathews

Mathunny  Mathews

According to Airlift director Raja Krishna Menon, Katyal is a fusion of two men, Sunny Mathews and Harbhajan Vedi, who volunteered time and energy to keep Indians safe during the evacuation.  Sunny Mathews’ granddaughter wrote a post about her grandfather on Facebook: 

“Talk to any returnee from Kuwait, who has undergone the ordeal of having escaped from Kuwait and he’ll tell you about Toyota Mathews. Mathews is the person who has helped many Indians by either organising their transport, or giving them some money which would come handy on the way, or more importantly, providing them with food and water for the arduous journey.  

6. Captain Vijay Nair

Captain Vijay Nair

Captain Nair was among the 3 Air India officials personally overseeing the evacuation from Amman (Jordan) to India. 

7. Harbajan Singh Vedi

Harbajan Singh Vedi

4 years before Airlift hit theatres, Vedi succumbed to cancer. An architect, he was a consultant to many Kuwaiti projects, and close to the ruling Al- Sabah family. According to Indian Frontliners, a portal for the Indian community in Kuwait,He "studied under the street light of Delhi after the partition of India in 1947",executing villas for the royal family, Sheikhs and prominent Kuwaitis. IK Gujral gave him the freedom to issue and sign passports and travel documents, and he played a pivotal role in  the initiative.  He also, according to some unverified reports, formed a 51 member unofficial committee coordinating evacuation execution.

8. Michael Mascarenhas