NEW DELHI: Based on a request from the families, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj met on Friday with the kin of the 39 Indians in Iraq and assured them that multiple third party sources had indicated their continuing survival and that they had been “put to work”.
Swaraj met the families of the 39 Indians who have been taken hostage for over a year in ISIS-held Mosul, where they were working with a construction company.
This was the eighth time that Swaraj met with the families – their last meeting was in mid-July. The minister of state for food processing, Harsimrat Kaur Badal was also present at the meeting which took place in Jawaharlal Nehru Bhawan.
Official sources said that the meeting had been sought by the families. “The minister told that there was unfortunately nothing new to add since the last meeting. But, she assured them that multiple sources continue to vouch that they are alive,” he stated.
Swaraj told the family members that “the men were not in a jail, but had been put to work”.
She assured them that the government was making all possible efforts to get them back.
During the meeting, a woman broke down, stating that it was not herself that she was worried, but that the hostages themselves would lose hope. “She was saying that she knew her husband and that since he don’t know that his families are lobbying for them, he will not keep faith of ever leaving captivity,” said a source.
Swaraj told her that people often change in extreme conditions. “The minister said that it was wrong to automatically assume that they (hostage) will lose hope, especially when people change or become stronger in extreme conditions,” said an official.
During the meeting, the minister did again allude to the statement by the sole escapee, Harjit Masih, who claims that all of them had been killed. “She asked if those people (ISIS) had no compunction in killing people, rather found inventive ways to do so – then if the Indians had been killed, where are the bodies?” said the source.