They were made to wash clothes, cook, do laundry, etc., all while facing frequent attacks on the base, and were paid a fraction of what they were supposed to recieve. When they complained about their treatment, they were denied the right to leave, and were in some cases beaten by U.S. soldiers. They also reported that in some cases they didn't get adequate food and water. They finally escaped after paying a Iraqi truck driver to smuggle them off base.
I saw reports on this in the Indian press a few days ago, but apparently there are 16 Indian contractors who have similar accounts, so the Western media is now taking this story seriously.
What's the proper word for this? Kidnapping? Slavery? Somehow the phrase "bad labor practices" just doesn't cut it. I've seen lots of soldiers complain about how hard it is to get their laundry cleaned over in Iraq, but I have a feeling that if they thought that their uniforms were being cleaned by foriegn forced labor, they would grab a bucket, a bar of soap, a pair of rocks and do the job themselves.
This is a fairly big issue, because the Indian government has barred its citizens from working in Iraq, yet there are apparently thousands of Indian soldiers who are contracting for security companies within Iraq. This may change, however, as India might hold the U.S. responsible for the return of its citizens to India as soon as possible.
Chalk up another 15% of the world's population who have a reason to dislike Americans, I guess.
*** Update: This article identifies the location of the base where the Indians were reportedly held as being Talafar, a town approximately 235 miles NW of Baghdad. The 1st Batalion of the 101st Airborne Division are based out of the airfield located there.