After Sushma Swaraj confirms 39 Indians killed by ISIS in Iraq, kin demand DNA reports
A day after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj confirmed in Parliament that 39 missing Indians in Iraq were dead, the affected families are struggling to come to terms with the loss.
Malkit Ram, whose brother Saganandlal is one of the 39 deceased, said, "My brother went to Iraq in 2012 where he worked as a carpenter. We had been asking MEA for proof of him being alive or dead. We demand that reports of the DNA test be given to us."
Gurpinder Kaur, whose brother Manjinder Singh died in Iraq's Mosul, said, "We demand from the government to provide us DNA reports. It's being politicised. We had been running from pillar to post since four years and now we are being told via television that we lost one of our own."
The wait for the families to receive the bodies of the deceased continues with MEA sources saying that the government is still working on the details. "No bodies coming back to India today," MEA sources said.
HERE IS ALL THAT HAPPENED IN THE LAST 24 HOURS:
- External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, in the form of a suo motu statement, informed Rajya Sabha that all 39 Indian construction workers kidnapped by the Islamic State in 2014 from Iraq's Mosul have been killed. She, however, was stopped from making the statement in Lok Sabha due to constant sloganeering in the House.
- The 39 Indians included 27 from Punjab, four from Himachal Pradesh, six from Bihar and two from West Bengal. They were taken hostage when the Islamic State took control of the second largest city in Iraq. They were trying to leave Mosul when they were abducted.
- Later, addressing a press conference, Sushma Swaraj said the government did not believe in declaring a missing person as dead. "I refused to close the files (of the 39 Indians) till we had concrete proof in hand (about their death)," she said replying to questions on what prompted the government to give hope to the families of the 39 missing Indians since 2014.
- Asked why there was a delay in confirming the death of these Indians, she said the DNA samples were initially matched with the bodies found in mass graves in Iraq. Sushma Swaraj said that the Martyrs Foundation informed the government about a mound being found in Mosul that could possibly have bodies buried underneath.
- "After the Martyrs Foundation sought DNA samples of missing Indians, we collected the same through four state governments in September last year," Sushma Swaraj said, adding that the government sought a "deep penetration radar" of the mound. After it was confirmed that bodies were buried underneath, "we had them exhumed", said Sushma Swaraj.
- Sushma Swaraj said that reports of the DNA identification arrived on Monday. While 100 per cent identification was possible for 38 bodies, but one body (Ram Yadav of Bihar) could be identified till 70 per cent. This was "because the DNA sample sent was from someone else in his family as his parents are no longer there", said Sushma.
- Lone Indian survivor Harjit Massi, who had been saying that all the 39 Indians in Mosul were dead, said, "I paid a heavy price for telling the truth. Now everybody believes me. The families of 39 missing Indians have moved against me in the court. I was kept in custody for a year and was promised a job which has not been given yet".
- Asked why the government did not go by the words of Harjit Massi, Sushma Swaraj said, "He is just one individual. How can the government make an announcement based on a single man's statement?"
- Sushma Swaraj said that Indian Ambassador to Iraq Pradeep Singh Rajpurohit would make arrangements for coffins and Union Minister of State for External Affairs General VK Singh would go to Iraq to bring the bodies back. "The aircraft will first land in Amritsar to hand over the bodies of those from Punjab and Himachal Pradesh and then in Patna followed by Kolkata," Sushma Swaraj said.
- Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member Partap Singh Bajwa accused the government of misleading the families. "I raised this issue many a times in Rajya Sabha that why is the Government playing with emotions of families by giving them false hopes. Can there be anything more shameful than this?" he tweeted.