Family members of those working in Iraq are living on a hope and a prayer after news spread that 40 Indian construction workers have been taken hostage by unidentified militants in Mosul.
Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) stand guard at a checkpoint in the northern Iraq city of Mosul. (Reuters)
Some of these men are from the district of Amritsar. They had all gone to Iraq in search of a better living and the last time their families heard from them was on Sunday. Since then there is complete silence at the other end.
Desperate family members are now pinning their hopes on the Centre to get their sons back home.
Read: 40 Indian workers abducted in Mosul, govt clueless on their whereabouts
"My son Kamaljit had left for Iraq about 11 months back. Today the situation in that country is very bad. We are not able to get in touch with him. We don't want anything else, we just want Kamaljit back," Mohinder Kaur said, as tears rolled down her eyes.
Kamaljit (35), along with Manjinder Singh (24), Gurcharan Singh (32), Jatinder Singh (30), Harsimranjit Singh (23) and Sonu (33) were in Iraq working for a construction company and were staying in Mosul.
"We saw on television the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) confirming that 40 men who lived in Mosul and were working in a construction company have been kidnapped. Since then we are very upset. We don't know what is happening," said Gurpinder Kaur, who is desperately trying to get some news about her brother Manjinder.
On Wednesday, their family members gathered at a local gurudwara in Bhoewal and offered prayers for their sons' well being.
Read: Iraq sacks top officers as UN warns of break-up
Kaur claimed external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had called on her on Wednesday morning.
"We were happy that the minister had called us and assured us of all possible support. But now with the kidnapping reports coming in, and if our boys have really been kidnapped, then we want India to mount pressure on Iraq to get them freed," the school teacher said.
The 46 Kerala nurses stranded in strife-torn Tikrit town in Iraq on Wednesday asked the Indian embassy to relocate them to another middle-east county. The Kerala government has already offered to pay for the tickets of the nurses to come back home.
Read: Indian nurses stranded in Iraq
Speaking to HT from Tikrit, which has been captured by Sunni militants, Sona Joseph (24) said since most of them had to pay huge sums to acquire their visa and travel papers, it would be unfavourable for them to return empty-handed.
"For the last five days, we are confined to our room in the Tikrit medical teaching hospital. We hear deafening bombing sounds day and night, but the hospital premises are unaffected. Each time the hospital gate opens, our heartbeats go up," said Sona who travelled to Tikrit 10 months ago. Sona and her sister Dona Jospeh, who also works at the hospital, had to shell out more than Rs. 3 lakh to a travel agent to reach Iraq.
"Today there was a severe water shortage at the hospital but Red Cross officials came to our rescue. Except stranded workers and terminally diseased the hospital is almost empty now. Red Cross officials promised to take us to the nearest airport that is 100 kms away once peace returns," she said.
Out of 46 stranded nurses, Sona said 15 were willing to go back to Kerala. Others, she claimed, preferred a change of work place to a relatively peaceful country. Since the western forces are planning air strikes in militant-controlled areas of Iraq, they fear they would be caught in crossfire.
"As of now Red Cross is our lifeline. It even helps us getting our SIM cards charged so we can call our relatives and friends. It is a big relief," she said, adding she came to know about the abduction of Indian workers from a relative.
Two men from Kanpur - Zamin Hussain and Safdar Abbass - are also trapped in Karbala, Iraq. Both had gone there on a pilgrimage in May. Heavy fighting is going on between militants and security forces in areas around Karbala preventing them from leaving the holy city.
(With inputs from agencies)