JAGATPURA/ MEHADPUR/JALANDHAR: Anger, despair and a sense of betrayal — these were the sentiments External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s statement in Parliament on Tuesday evoked among family members of the Punjabi youths abducted and killed by the ISIS in Mosul, Iraq, in 2014.
Most of them accused the Union government of keeping them in the dark and giving them false hopes. The common refrain among all families was that the government had reassured them all along that the missing Indian workers were alive and it was doing its best to trace them.Many families had taken loans to send their kin abroad and are in despair now that their hopes are shattered.
“We came to know about the death of the 39 Indian youths missing in Iraq since 2014 from the media,” said Jeet Ram, father of Parminder Kumar from the tiny village of Jagtpura in Nawanshahr.“They (the government) should have told us earlier only when we had gone to Delhi to meet Sushma. I had gone at least five times with family members of the other youths. Every time, we were given the same assurance that they are finding our children, so not to worry,”he said.
At the family’s small, two-bedroom house, Parminder’s wife Anju and mother Krishna Devi were inconsolable. A boy of four was running around the house, wondering aloud why his mother and grandmother were constantly crying. “My son had gone to Iraq in 2012. He had not even seen his new-born child,” said Jeet Ram. Jaskaran was born in 2014 a month after his father had returned to Iraq after a month-long leave. “My grandson will never see his father,” said the heartbroken ex-serviceman, who took a loan to send his son abroad. “We were getting `20,000 during the SAD-BJP rule. For past five months, the money has stopped coming.”
A few minutes’ drive from here on the dusty roads is another grieving family in Mehadpur village. Their loved one Jasbir Singh was one among the abducted youths. His sister-in-law Manjit Kaur said, “He had gone four years ago. The government had been telling us that they would inform us about the whereabouts of Jasbir and that he would get in touch with us. Now, they suddenly say he is no more. The doctors took our DNA samples also.”
Jasbir’s mother Surjit Kaur cannot believe her son is dead. His grief-stricken father said, “We are neither dead nor alive. Why did the government give false assurances when they knew our boy was dead?”
Jasbir’s elder brother, who works as a daily wage labourer, had taken a loan to send his younger brother to Iraq.
Some 17 km from Jalandhar, in Chuharwali village, Usha Rani has been in a state of shock since she came to know Tuesday morning that her husband Surjit Singh was dead for years. All these years, she had been living on the hope that he would come back home. “He had gone to Mosul in 2013 to work. We took a loan of `1.5 lakh.” She lives with her mother-in-law Harbhajan Kaur and seven-year-old twins. “How will we survive? We earn only `1,500 per month.”
Harvinder Kaur lives in Gazipur village near Jalandhar with her parents. She was told to leave home by her in-laws in 2014 when they came to know that their son Kamaljit Singh had gone missing in Iraq. She was blamed for it. “I have two children and I live with my parents who care for us,” she said in a trembling voice. Gobinder Singh of Murar village in Kapurthala was the sole breadwinner in his family. “We want to see him one last time. We were kept in the dark,” said his distraught wife, Amarjeet Kaur. Gobinder, too, had taken a loan of `1.5 lakh to go to Iraq in 2013.