A Noida businessman returned to India Sunday after a four-day ordeal in the UAE owing to mistaken identity. He was detained and questioned several times by the UAE authorities before they realised he was not a criminal and set him free.
Praveen Kumar was on a vacation trip to Switzerland, sponsored by the prominent cement company he works for, along with his wife Usha. When they landed in Abu Dhabi on October 11 for transit, the authorities there detained him mistaking him to be a wanted criminal. “Even before I got out of the plane, an announcement was made for me to come out. When I did so, some people from the UAE CID were there and they started questioning me. They showed the photo of someone else and asked me if it was me in the photo. I told them it was not my photo. This questioning went on for hours.”
He was then let go, Kumar said, but his boarding pass did not work at the check-in. “I thought it must be some mistake since they let me go. But then the CID came back and took me into custody and started questioning me again. They thought I was some other criminal who had the same name and date of birth. But I kept telling them that all other details are different and that I have never been to the UAE before.” Meanwhile, Kumar’s wife was sent back to India as she did not have a UAE visa.
Kumar’s brother Atul said, “She (Kumar’s wife) was in a very bad state. She hardly ate while she was here….only she knows what pain she had to go through, being forced to leave her husband behind in such a situation in a foreign country.”
The next day, Kumar said he was moved to a common cell with 30-40 other people. “It was basically a jail, the conditions were very bad. They should not treat anyone like this. It is one thing if you suspect some issue and question me, but without proof, they were treating me as though I was a criminal. I could not eat the food there also since it was non-vegetarian. I was mostly surviving on tea,” Kumar said.
On October 13, Kumar was taken to the city of Ras Al-Khaimah to meet a judge over video conferencing the next day.
The confusion started to clear up after he was given a Hindi interpreter. “I told them again that all the details were different and showed a photocopy of my passport as well since the CID had the original. The criminal was originally from Kerala and the case was from 2015, whereas I had never been to Abu Dhabi and my passport was issued in 2016. I kept telling them this. I could see from their body language that they were also in a state of confusion. They asked for my old passport but I told them that I had only this one, and there was no old passport,” said Kumar.
After another round of questioning along the same line, Kumar was finally told he was free to go. But he had to wait for one more day before he was taken back to Abu Dhabi and he spent the rest of the day in custody. He finally caught a flight back to India late on October 15 after UAE officials dropped him back at the airport and returned his documents.
In the wake of his ordeal, Kumar was all praises for the Indian administration. “Though I did not know it at the time without my phone, my family had contacted the external affairs ministry and the Gautam Buddh Nagar district magistrate Suhas LY, who put in a lot of effort to help my family.”
Kumar’s family and friends welcomed him at the airport Sunday morning.