June 14, 2014, was the last day when most of the families of the 39 Indians abducted by the Islamic State (IS) militants in Mosul, Iraq, spoke to them. Since then, the families are oscillating between hope and despair.
Even after a series of meetings with Union external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, the families of the missing youths have no information about their whereabouts. They staged protests and even knocked at the doors of state government, but their ordeal seems unending.
Waiting for her brother Manjinder Singh, who had gone to Iraq in search of better opportunities, Gurpinder Kaur of Bhoewal village says: "My brother last called on June 14, 2014. We came to know that he has been abducted by the IS militants and it has been endless wait since then."
Living on assurances
Stating that they were living on assurances, Gurpinder, who has been spearheading the campaign of the missing youths' families since the past one year, said: "We have met Sushma Swaraj eight times and just got one response that the government sources say all abducted youths are fine. If the government is so confident of its sources, then why can't it make us talk to our loved ones?"
"We have met Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal on many occasions, but still things are not moving," she added.
Family members offering prayers at Bhoewal Village Gurudwara in Amritsar. (HT File Photo)
Ranjit Kaur of Sialka village, who is waiting for her son Jatinder Singh's return, sounds optimistic. "I spoke to my son last in June 2014. We have been repeatedly urging the Union government to make efforts for the safe release of the abducted youths. We hope that things will be fine one day. I have strong feeling that all will return safe."
Sonu Kumar of Dhadda village in Jalandhar district whose father Balwant Rai is missing in Iraq, says: "We have met Sushma Swaraj many times to know the whereabouts of our missing relatives in Iraq, but to no avail." Sonu said his father along with Davinder and Surjeet of Chuharwali village were working as labourers with a Turkish construction company in Mosul.
No financial assistance
Manjeet Kaur, a resident of Chak Des Raj village, whose husband Davinder Singh went missing in Iraq, said it had become difficult for them to make ends meet as her husband was the sole breadwinner of the family. Manjeet, who earns a meagre amount from stitching clothes, said it was becoming difficult for her to feed three children. She said the state government should not make false promises."We came to know that some families are getting money, but we have not received anything from the state government so far," she claimed, demanding financial assistance from the state government.
Families of men who have been stuck in Iraq offering prayers at Baba Budha Ji Sahib Gurudwara at Kathunangal in Amritsar. (HT File Photo)
The Punjab government had promised a financial assistance of Rs 20,000 per month to the affected families, but the money is not being paid regularly, said sources.
'Govt making false claims'
Davinder Singh, a resident of Murar village in Kapurthala and brother of Gobinder Singh who is missing in Iraq, said: "The Union government is making false claim that the kidnapped Indians are safe. The government should clear the air. Why is the government shying away from sending its envoy to Iraq to have a dialogue with the kidnappers?"
Of the 39 youths abducted by the IS in Iraq last year, more than 20 are from Punjab.
Harjit Masih of Kala Afghana village, who was among the 40 Indian workers kidnapped by the IS in Iraq, on his return to India in May this year said the other 39 abducted had been killed by militants. However, the Union government and the families of the abducted youths rejected his claims.