Families of Indians killed in Iraq recount their struggle for information

The eight people from the two districts in Punjab were among the 39 Indians abducted by the Islamic State terrorist group in 2014.

Published: 20th March 2018 07:58 PM  |   Last Updated: 20th March 2018 08:23 PM   |  A+A-

Family members grieve by a portrait of Harsimran Singh one of the 39 Indian workers whose bodies were found buried northwest of Mosul. | PTI

By PTI

AMRITSAR: Fighting off their tears, family members of the eight people from Amritsar and Tarn Taran districts confirmed dead in Iraq today, recounted their struggle over the past nearly four years for authoritative information about them.

The eight people from the two districts in Punjab were among the 39 Indians abducted by the Islamic State terrorist group in 2014.

Their whereabouts had remained uncertain until now and the families had hoped they would see them alive.

That hope unexpectedly shattered today.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj confirmed in the Rajya Sabha today that the 39 Indians were killed in the Iraqi city of Mosul, liberated from the dreaded group in June last year.

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Following the confirmation, a pall of gloom descended on the bereaved families.

Gurwinder Kaur's eyes were moist as she unsuccessfully tried to hold off her tears.

A resident of Mehta village, she said her brother Manjinder Singh had gone to Iraq for employment.

"One day, I got a telephone call from my brother from Iraq, informing he was stuck and it seemed difficult to come out of the unpredictable circumstances due to terrorist activities," she said.

The Union government, she said, offered her empathetic words over the years "but nothing was done by the government.

" In October last year, relatives of the eight Punjabi-origin people had visited the Government Medical College in Amritsar to provide DNA samples for matching with the Indians stuck in the war-torn country, if required.

At that time, they possibly did not know their biggest fear would come true within the next five months.

"I had an intuition when the government asked us to go for DNA tests.

I knew something serious has happened to my brother, but the government was not willing to (disclose the purpose of collecting the DNA samples).

This news has crushed everything to the ground," Kaur said.

Balwinder Kaur from Manochahal village in Tarn Taran district too struggled to hold back her tears.

Her son, Ranjit Singh, is among the 39 Indians declared dead.

"Being a mother, it is difficult to bear the permanent separation from my son. Nobody from the Indian authority was in a position to tell me the plight of my son," she rued.

Gurmeet Kaur from Jallalusma village in Amritsar district said she was informed via a telephone call that her brother Gurcharan Singh was "stuck in bad circumstances" in Iraq.

She said nobody informed her about whether he was dead or alive, and today she was told her brother was killed by ISIS.

According to the two district administrations, the eight persons declared dead in Iraq were Nishan Singh, Ranjit Singh, Harsimran Singh, Manjinder Singh, Gurcharan Singh, Sonu, Jatinder Singh and Harish Kumar.

Addresing the media soon after her statement in Rajya Sabha, Swaraj did not give a direct answer to when the 39 Indians were killed.

She said it was irrelevant as the bodies could have been recovered only after Mosul was freed from the ISIS.

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