Tough questions raised after Swaraj announces the death of 39 Indians in Iraq
Four years after 39 Indians went missing in Iraq after being captured by ISIS, the government has confirmed that they are dead. While addressing the media at Jawaharlal Nehru Bhawan, Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj said, “With full proof, I can say these 39 are dead. We wanted to give the families closure only after concrete proof.”
Swaraj told the Rajya Sabha that the DNA of 38 people matched the remains found underneath one of the many mounds found in Mosul and Badush after they were liberated from ISIS’ control. One body was a 70 percent match.
The revelation has created a furore, prompting the Opposition to accuse the government of giving false hopes to the concerned families and misleading the entire nation. Last year, Swaraj had told the Parliament that until evidence suggested otherwise, the 39 missing Indians would be presumed to be alive. Questions have been raised as to why the government continued to raise hopes in a country in throes of a brutal war? Also, what purpose was served by this news for the government?
The minister also said that VK Singh, the Union Minister of State, External Affairs, will go to Mosul to collect the remains of the 39 workers killed there. She added that the plane carrying the remains would first land in Amritsar, then stop at Patna and Kolkata. What is feared in some quarters is how will these dead bodies be returned to their families? Will they be used by hawks to whip communal passions?
In 2015, a top Palestinian diplomatic source had told Hardnews that the 39 Indians abducted by the ISIS were safe. The source had said that the information had been shared with the Indian government which relied on it. The source had also claimed that Palestinian authorities were also trying to secure their release through their own channels in Iraq. “We have information that they are still safe and we are also trying to ensure that they come back to India safely,” the source had said, adding that he was intrigued why they had been kept in captivity for so long when no demands have been made for their release by the ISIS. Palestinians were the main source behind government's optimism.
Last year, Swaraj had told the Parliament that until evidence suggested otherwise, the 39 missing Indians would be presumed to be alive. Questions have been raised as to why the government continued to raise hopes in a country in throes of a brutal war? Also, what purpose was served by this news for the government
The source had claimed that it was through Palestinian help that Shiite pilgrims abducted by Al Nusra, an offshoot of Al Qaeda, were released on an earlier occasion. Intelligence network of Palestinians enjoy high credibility. Late Yasser Arafat, head of Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) had warned the Indian government about the threat to late Rajiv Gandhi's life, but the government of the day did not pay heed.
In July 2015, VK Singh, the Union Minister of State, External Affairs, had claimed that the kidnapped workers were safe and that efforts are on to secure their release. Singh spoke of information from third parties but didn’t share any more details.
The information had even then contradicted the claims made by Harjit Masih, one of the 40 workers who was kidnapped by the ISIS. Maseeh had claimed that the militants took them on a hillock, lined them up and shot them from the back. He had narrated how he was hit on his leg and fell down feigning death. He later ran to safety and had somehow managed to contact the Indian Embassy officials. Maseeh had also said that he was illegally detained first by the Indian embassy in Baghdad and later by the agencies on his return to Delhi. He had said that he was kept in different locations in Noida and Gurgaon before being released in April 2015.