CHANDIGARH: The mortal remains of 31 youth from Punjab and Himachal Pradesh reached today by a special aircraft carrying the remains of 38 Indians killed by the Islamic State in Mosul in Iraq. The reports of DNA sample-matching were handed over to the kin along with the remains and they were suggested not to open the coffins and cremate them like this only due to toxic contents.
The special aircraft of Indian Airforce reached at the Amritsar International Airport carrying the mortal remains of 38 Indians killed in Iraq, an air of gloom descended as distraught families looked at the caskets and they received the bodies with tears in their eyes.
The remains of the 31 men belonging to Punjab and Himachal Pradesh (27 from Punjab and 4 from Himachal Pradesh) were received at the Guru Ram Das Jee International Airport in Amritsar, the rest of the bodies were flown to Patna and Kolkata to be handed over to their relatives.
Thanking the Iraqi forensic laboratories for their support in conducting the tests to identify the bodies, Minister of state for external affairs Gen VK Singh (Retd) said, "We are thankful to the authorities in Iraq for the help they rendered to locate the victims and exhume the mortal remains. The union government did its best to know about the missing Indians," he said.
When asked if kin of those killed would be given jobs, Singh said, "This is not a game of football. Both state and central governments are sensitive. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had asked the families for the details of members, who they wanted to be given jobs. We will review it." Along with the mortal remains the reports of DNA sample-matching were also handed over to the kin. The family members demanded they should be allowed to open the coffins after they receive them by the authorities advised them against it.
Singh made a suggestion that the coffins should not be opened because of toxic contents in the remains, "The Martyrs Foundation had advised against the opening of caskets. They have told us that the way toxic contents were found (from where the mortal remains were taken out) and the way all this was done (embalming of bodies) when you open the casket it may pose danger and that is why they said it is better not to open it," he said.
As per the forensic reports these men were killed more than a year ago, but it couldn't give any conclusive period, "Forensic examination reveals some of our men were shot dead, in few of the cases, the forensic examinations could not give exact cause of death forensic examination findings are also not conclusive of the time when they were killed," said Singh.
Singh appealed to the people to refrain from sending their children abroad through unfair means by playing into the hands of unscrupulous elements because the promises made by the travel agents generally don’t come to fruition. "The external affairs ministry started a campaign in 2014 in which we say that one must not go through an illegal agent. There was no record of these 40 persons in any embassy. They migrated through illegal agents. When you go through illegal agents then it is difficult to find where one has gone," he said.
Singh added, "We have told each state that law and order is their responsibility and they should catch illegal agents in their respective states and take action against them. We want state and centre should work collectively in this direction. We do not want anybody should go illegally abroad. We want people to go legally so that we have their record."
Citing the example of the nurses case he said, "Do you know about Indian nurses case? We knew about their condition and we asked them to get out of their place in Iraq in 2014. Initially, they refused to leave the place, saying they were not in danger. But after four days, they told us their hospital was damaged. Then we rescued them. Had there been any information that these persons (40 Indian men) were in crisis at a particular location, we would have rescued them. The kind of situation in which Mosul was, I can claim that nobody could have entered that area in such a situation," he said.
Meanwhile, Punjab Local Bodies Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu who was flanked with Singh said it is the responsibility of the administration to take mortal remains to their respective homes. "The families can do whatever they want to do with the remains this is their wish," he said.
Singh assured jobs to the kin, "We will give government jobs to the kin of deceased it will be given to them on the basis of their educational qualifications. Not only that Rs 5 lakh per family would also be given from the side of the Punjab government and Rs 20,000 monthly financial compensation would continue." He also made it clear that the Punjab Government in collaboration with the Union Government would take stringent action against the travel agents sending youth abroad by unfair means.
Meanwhile, the kin said that they will open the coffins, "Our demand is that we will take mortal remains to our homes to have a glimpse. It is our right. They are our children we have been waiting for them for last four years," said Gurpinder Kaur, whose brother was among the youth killed in Iraq.
Explaining how the mortal remains of these youth were located, Minister of state for external affairs General VK Singh (Retd) said that they located the mound from where the remains were taken out in Iraq. "We were not allowed to go to Mosul through Erbil as war was going on. After talking to company owner in whose factory these 40 men were working and others, we got information that a lot of people were buried near a place in Badush. We found a mound which was not natural."
"We sought a ground penetration radar and then we found some human skeletons in the mound. Thereafter, digging exercise was started to bring out the mortal remains. We got a kara (iron bracelet worn) by Sikhs and long hair and then we thought they may belong to be our people. Thereafter, DNA sample exercise commenced. The 38 samples matched while 70 per cent of one sample matched," he said.