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An innocuous announcement by Indian’s civil aviation ministry, saying that there will be more flights this summer from Doha to India, created massive chaos in certain sections of the Indian media, with one leading daily saying that India was preparing to airlift “stranded” Indians in Qatar.

Qatar is in the midst of a GCC blockade with countries like Saudi Arabia, and Egypt and even the UAE alleging that the Qatari Emir has been harbouring and aiding extremist Islamist groups such as al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Even the BBC picked up the news and ran the story before it was realised that all this was “fake”.

Not only did India’s civil aviation minister P Ashok Gajapathi Raju clarify that “The additional flights to Qatar are to cater to Eid / school vacation traffic. It shouldn’t be seen as evacuation as reported at some places,” Indians in Qatar were incensed at such irresponsible reporting by certain sections of the media and took to social media to lambast them.

P Kumaran, Indian ambassador to Qatar, told The Peninsula newspaper: “Very irresponsible of the media to write such misleading reports. Sitting in Delhi, they don’t know the ground reality. Without talking to people in Qatar they write something.”

A clarifying tweet from the Indian embassy read:

AI Express will operate an additional flight each on 24 JUN & 25 JUN on the route TRV/DOH/COK/TRV to cater to Eid/School vacation traffic.

— India in Qatar (@IndEmbDoha) June 21, 2017

In the interview, Indian ambassador Kumaran added: “These extra flights are to address the holiday rush as all Indian schools closed this week for summer holidays and it coincides with Eid holidays. Jet Airways is operating two flights and Air India Express another two, so there will be four extra flights to address the holiday rush.”

The chaos emanated from a Times of India story headlined: “India to airlift its citizens stuck in blockade-hit Qatar from next week”.  The story is a complete fake, as pointed out by all in the know.

Indians in Qatar have maintained that there is no problem with their lives in Qatar, with even things likes essential goods being airlifted and made available in quick time.

The Indian embassy has requested Indians to follow its social media channels for official communications and not to be misled by rumours. The officials also added that they will counter this fake news in Delhi on June 23.

Executive Director at Qatar Stars League Khalifa Saleh Al Haroon, also popular as Mr Q, took to Facebook inviting Indian community to respond to fake media reports.

Meanwhile, producer cum announcer at FM 107 Qatar Obaid Tahir put up a video on Facebook. In the video he told Indians in Qatar that there is no panic situation. He concluded the video by wishing everyone a happy journey and Eid Mubarak.

(This story first appeared in The Peninsula, Qatar’s daily newspaper)

— India Legal Bureau

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