Arvinder Singh cannot forget the dreadful night January last year when police in Sharjah swooped on him and 49 other Indian youths while they were sleeping and tortured them in custody without saying what wrong they had committed.
Singh, 21, was lucky as he was among the 33 men who were later released, but 17 others, including his cousin Sukhjinder Singh, have been sentenced to death for the murder of a Pakistani.
"I was in Sharjah for one-and-a-half year. My cousin and I worked as labourers. That night at around 2:30 am, the police arrested us. We weren't told why and worse were asked to be silent. Later, we learnt that a case was registered against us. I was imprisoned for three months and then released," Arvinder said.
As many as 50 Indian youths were arrested while they were sleeping.
"All were brutally tortured. We were given lashes and electric current and the 17 youths who broke down due to intensive torture were finally booked in the case and rest of the 33 boys were released and sent back to India", Arvinder said.
He said that statements of the released boys should also be recorded to save the convicted youths through an appeal in the higher court in Sharjah.
Appealing to the Centre to immediately intervene to rescue the 17 "innocent" youths, he said, "We would wait for the response today, otherwise we will be forced to organise a protest march in front of Prime Minister's House in New Delhi."
He said that the 33 released youths would also join the planned protest. Ranjit Kaur, who came to know about her husband Dharam Pal's conviction through newspaper, said that he went to Dubai to earn his livelihood and could never harm anybody.
An inconsolable Kaur, mother of two young children and resident of Chowk Tehal Singh of Ferozepur district, said Pal went to Dubai about two years back to work as a labourer. The money for sending him was arranged by selling the lone trolley owned by the family, she said.
"It is big shock to the family," Kaur said.
Relatives of Kuldeep Singh, another Indian on death row, alleged that the trial was a farce. Ravinder Singh's family too claims that he has been framed and that the trial was "illegal".
Most of the 17 youths facing death sentence are in their 20s and all of them come from poor families in rural Punjab. The families exhausted all their savings to send their bread-winners to the Middle East, counting on the money that would have sent home later.
Balwinder Singh, father of Baljit Singh, said that though his son went to Dubai about a year ago, he got work for only 40 days after which he was arrested by the police.
"I came to know of his conviction only through the newspapers. It not only shocking but also unbelievable," said the resident of Sanghowal village of Jalandhar.
Balraj Singh, father of Arvinder Singh, said that his son went to UAE two years ago.
"I spent Rs 3 lakh for sending him to Dubai, where he was working as a driver with Dubai Nova company", he added.
Balbir Singh, brother of convicted youth Kashmir Singh, said, "A person named Nawab called his brother to Dubai to work as mason and suddenly I came to know that he has been sentenced capital punishment". Jaswinder Singh, a cleric in gurudwara of Bansipura village in Ludhiana and brother of Kulwinder who is facing death sentence, said "how he could be held responsible for murder of a Pakistani national is still a mystery for me".