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HindustanTimes Sun,21 Sep 2014

Punjab prays for its sons missing in Iraq, families to meet Sushma Swaraj today

Aseem Bassi, Hindustan Times  Bhoewal, June 18, 2014
First Published: 22:29 IST(18/6/2014) | Last Updated: 16:35 IST(19/6/2014)

As tension continues to mount in Iraq and the situation worsens in that country, the families of six youths of Amritsar district, who are stranded there, are in a state of panic and just living on hope after they have lost contact with these youths for the past four days.

These families, who gathered at a gurdwara in this village in Amritsar district and offered prayers for the well-being of all the six boys, also appealed to the central government to act swiftly and ensure a safe return of the Indian nationals stranded in Iraq.

Though the families have failed to make any contact with their wards since Sunday after which their mobiles are switched off, a glimmer of hope came when the union external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj called up Gurpinder Kaur, who is praying for the safe return of her younger brother Manjinder Singh.

The families are scheduled to meet external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi on Thursday.

Hindustan Times on Wednesday spoke to the families of those who are stranded in Iraq, including Harsimranjit Singh, Manjinder Singh, Gurcharan Singh, Jatinder Singh, Kamaljit Singh and Sonu.

These families claim that their wards were in Mosul a few days ago but after that there is no news about their whereabouts.

Read: Iraq horror hits home, 40 Indians abducted

Talking to HT, Gurpinder Kaur, whose brother Manjinder is stuck in Iraq, said, "My brother had gone to Iraq in search of greener pastures but now with the tension mounting in that country, we want him back.We are not able to contact him. Today, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj rang me up and assured full support".

She said, "The minister told me that the government is doing its best to trace the Indian nationals and all efforts are being made to bring them back in India. We have faith in the government and the minister has asked us to inform them about the latest word that we have with any of the boys stranded there".

Gurpinder, who is a school teacher, has been making regular contacts with embassy officials in Delhi. She said, "Of more than 40 persons kidnapped in Iraq, as far as I know, 12 belong to Amritsar district and they had left for Iraq together. They all were working with a private construction company. Our biggest problem is that we have lost contact with them. We will continue our efforts and are very hopeful that all of them will return home safely".

The six families, who had gathered at Bhoewal village, 35 km from Amritsar, on Wednesday, claimed that the boys had gone to Iraq for a better future but they never knew that they will be stranded like this.

With tears rolling down her eyes, Mohinder Kaur of Roopawali village, said, "My son Kamaljit Singh had left for Iraq about 11 months ago. Today, the situation in that country is grave and we are not able to get in touch with him. We don't want anything else but just want Kamaljit back. The Indian government should come to our rescue and take up the matter strongly".

Similarly, Ranjit Kaur of Sialka village is waiting for the safe return of her son Jatinder Singh. "We are hearing all sorts of news coming from Iraq. Visuals on the television are frightening and we are very much worried about Jatinder. Sushma Swaraj had called up one of the families and we hope that government will do the needful".

No idea about whereabouts of stranded Punjabis

The fact that these families have no idea about the present whereabouts of their wards makes them all the more anxious. Harbhajan Kaur, whose son Harsimranjit Singh is also stranded in Iraq, said, "The last thing we know is that the employer of all these boys is on the run and they do not have any documents now. I got a call from my son on Sunday and after that there has been no contact. We all don't know where the boys are now".

Harjit Kaur and Seema are worried about their husbands who are in Iraq. They told HT that the financial situation of their families
was such that their husbands had to go abroad but now when the tension is mounting in Iraq, they just want them to return.
Prof Sarchand Singh, media advisor to revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia, who called on these families, said, "We are in regular touch with the families and some people have been deputed to remain in touch with the external affairs ministry. We are behind these families and whatever help is needed will be given. If there is need to take these families to Delhi, we will do that as well".

Amritsar youths stranded in Iraq

The youths, who are stranded in Iraq, are Manjinder Singh (24), Harsimranjit Singh (23), Gurcharan Singh (32), Jatinder Singh (30), Sonu (33) and Kamaljit Singh (35).

They had left their homes in search of better future. Their families told HT that it was the poor financial situation at home that forced them to leave India. Most of these families claimed that they have lost contact with the stranded youths since Sunday after which their phones are switched off.

Ranjit Kaur, whose son Jatinder was stuck in Mosul in Iraq says, "My son called me on Sunday and told us that he was fine. But since then, we have no contact with him and that makes us all the more worried".

Full coverage: Iraq on the brink

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