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This article was first published 9 years ago  » News » Give us evidence of their well-being, say relatives of missing Indians

Give us evidence of their well-being, say relatives of missing Indians

By Upasna Pandey
May 11, 2015 19:33 IST
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‘We need more than assurances from political parties,’ say relatives of the 39 Indian workers who have been missing in Iraq since June last year. contributor Upasna Pandey reports

A young mother of two, Seema is among the relatives of 39 missing Indian workers, who were abducted by ISIS in Iraq. They have been on a relay hunger strike at Jantar Mantar since April 29 protesting against the government’s inaction on the issue.

Relatives of the workers, who have been missing since June last year, say they have lost faith in the government’s “intent” on the crisis. They accuse the government of making contradictory statements in Parliament and outside. Their attempt to meet with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at her residence was cut short by the Delhi Police, who detained them for unlawful assembly. They were taken away to the Tuglak Road police station in the VVIP zone of the national capital.

“We were not allowed to eat the entire day. Seema was taken to hospital after she fainted due to exhaustion,” said one of the relatives.

Like Seema’s husband Sonu, most of the workers who are missing are sole breadwinners of their families.   

“We were receiving financial aid of Rs 20,000 per month from the Punjab government, but that too has stopped since the past four months,” says Parwinder Lucky, from Hoshiarpur. His elder brother and brother-in-law, Kamaljeet and Kulwinder, are among the missing Indians.

Seema, who lives in a village near Amritsar, has started a small tailoring business to meet her family’s financial needs. She has also been taking financial support from her relatives but she wonders how long she can continue this way.

“The minister (Swaraj) has told the Parliament they are not sure whether the missing Indians are alive or have been killed in Iraq. But when we ask them we are told our relatives are fine. The government has not been able to provide us with any evidence,” says Seema.

Sunita, whose brother Gurdeep Singh is missing, says that whenever they question the government about her brother’s well-being, she is told that search operations are on and its secrecy must be respected. “We are also told if the government tries to forcibly rescue these men, the ISIS may harm them. We are not sure what to believe,” she adds.

Parwinder says the families were urged to meet Sushma Swaraj and call off the protest. “We asked if the government had anything new to tell us. They told us there was nothing new, so we didn’t see any point in meeting the minister. The last time I spoke with my brother in June, he said the ISIS were in talks with the Indian government and would release them if the negotiations were successful. We don’t know if there are any talks between the ISIS and the government now,” he says.

Jasbeer, whose brother Ranjeet Singh, is among the abducted Indians, asks if the government can get Indian nurses, who were held by ISIS, out of Iraq in an impressive and fast manner, why are they unable to do the same for the 39 missing Indian workers.

The protesting relatives are getting enough political attention in the form of visits by Congress leader, Ajay Maken, Aam Aadmi Party leader Bhagwant Singh Maan, and the Aam Aadmi Sena, but they need more than assurances.

Ludhiana MP Ravneet Bittu has also been in touch with the families and has raised their issue in the Lok Sabha.

Harbhajan Singh, whose 35-year-old son, Kamaljeet Singh is missing says. “I am here because I want someone to give us proper answers about the fate of our children. We need them back. My son’s daughter was born two months after he was reported missing, she needs to see her father.”

There are others like Manish from Amritsar, whose brother and brother-in-law are also missing. There are also some families from Himachal Pradesh and Bihar.

Image: Relatives of the missing Indians, who have been abducted by the ISIS, protest the government's inaction on the issue. Photograph: Upasna Pandey 

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