NEWDELHI : A pall of gloom has descended on families of the 39 people missing in Iraq with the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj confirming that DNA tests carried out on 39 bodies recovered from a deep mass grave have confirmed them as Indians.
As many as 40 Indians were originally abducted by the ISIS in June 2015 from Mosul in Iraq but one of them escaped by posing as a Muslim from Bangladesh, Swaraj said in a suo motu statement in the Upper House of the Indian Parliament, the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday. The remaining 39 Indians were taken to Badoosh and killed.
The announcement was met with uproar from the Opposition benches and another day passed with little legislative business being conducted in either House of Parliament on Tuesday, as parties from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh continued their protests. Protesting MPs from the AIADMK, DMK and TDP entered the Well soon after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj made a statement on the 39 missing Indians in Iraq and Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad made brief remarks.
Mrs. Swaraj revealed that search operations led to a mound in Badoosh where locals said some bodies were buried by the ISIS. Deep penetration radars were used to establish that the mound indeed was a mass grave, she said, adding the Indian authorities requested their Iraqi counterpart to exhume the bodies.
Swaraj said the mass grave had exactly 39 bodies, with distinctive features like long hair, non-Iraqi shoes and IDs. The bodies were then sent to Baghdad for DNA testing. DNA testing by Martyrs Foundation has established identity of 38 Indians while there has been 70 percent matching of the DNA for the 39th person, she said.
Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh will be flying to Iraq to bring back the bodies on a special flight.
Family members of several of those gone missing have undergone immense hardship over the years as those captured were in many cases the sole breadwinners. Not only are families coping with the financial crisis but also with the emotional uncertainty of dealing with a situation where they have no information.
Most of the 39 persons are from Punjab, some are from Himachal and Bihar too. Family members allege misinformation and accuse the government of misleading them. They say at the last meeting held in Delhi, government officials read out a letter from a source in Mosul, saying the captured Indians are alive and well. “What surprises us is that all these years the government has been saying they are alive and well and appears to have information of their well being, but we have never been given any direct and concrete proof of their safety,” says Gurpinder, whose brother Manjinder worked at a construction site in Mosul and was taken captive on June 11, 2014.
Reaction from victims kin
The families of the 39 Indians who were killed by ISIS in Iraq’s Mosul said they got to know about the news only through TV and the government never intimated them. Sushma Swaraj had personally met the families of the kidnapped persons several times assured them that the government was “fully and continuously engaged” and “every possible effort” was being made to ensure their release.
“The government has misled us and let us down.We were told they had been traced and were fine, by the same minister who announced their death today, says Gurvinder Kaur, sister of one of the victims Surjeet Singh. “We switched on the TV and found that our sons and brothers had not just been killed but butchered and found in a mass grave,”said Purshottam Tiwari, the father of one of the victims, Vidya Tiwari. Could the government not have told us this themselves and earlier?” he questioned.
Former Gen VK Singh dismissed the charges of the search efforts being futile said “Our effort and promise was to get them. If they were alive we would have got them from wherever they were and if they are dead we would get their remains, which is what we are doing,”he commented.
“Sad news of the confirmation of the deaths of 39 Indians in Iraq. Thoughts & prayers are w/their families. But why did the Govt give false hope to the nation for three and a half years that the people were still alive?” Congress leader Shashi Tharoor tweeted.