JALANDHAR: Harjit Masih feels vindicated after the government confirmed that 39 Indians abducted in Iraq in 2014 were killed by ISIS terrorists and buried in a mass grave.“I had spoken the truth then,’’ says the resident of Kala Afghana village in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district. The construction worker had miraculously escaped ISIS captivity but no one believed him.
“All of them (39 Indians) were butchered in front of my eyes. We worked at a factory in Iraq. From there, we were abducted and taken hostage. We were made to sit on our knees in a row and the ISIS militants opened fired on us like target practice… By God’s grace, I was fortunate as a bullet hit my right thigh and I fell unconscious. As I was covered with bodies, so they thought I was dead too. The next day I found all my fellow workers dead when I regained consciousness,’’recalls Masih.
Twenty-seven victims were from Amritsar, Gurdaspur, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala and Jalandhar districts of Punjab. The ISIS men left the spot assuming all the victims were dead and then he escaped, he says. “This is what I told the government and everyone, including some central agencies, once I returned India in June 2014, but no one believed me. Why didn’t the government believe me earlier and accepted the truth?’’
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had earlier dismissed Masih’s statement but on Tuesday, she informed Parliament that the bodies of the 39 Indians were spotted using deep penetration radar.
Life never has been the same for the Gurdaspur resident, who now works as a construction worker in nearby villages to sustain himself and his family.
In 2014, Masih and his cousin Rajbir Singh were arrested by the Punjab Police on charges of human trafficking but were later granted bail.“Later, when I along with AAP MP Bhagwant Mann narrated the entire incident in front of the media, I was implicated in a false case of human trafficking,’’he says.
For now, Masih is tired of any further ‘confrontation’ with the government. ”I don’t want to enter into any argument with the government,’’ he asserts.