Since June, she has knocked at endless doors to know what became of the youths missing in militant-seized Iraq. Gurpinder Kaur, who has led many families in this fight for information, is disappointed that the state government not as active as before; and that today reaching the Union government is easier.
The schoolteacher has been out in the front managing the media and raising the issue with external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj. HT talked to her on the crisis.
HT: How do you see the Punjab government role in the fight of families of the missing men?
Gurpinder Kaur: The Punjab government was very helpful and spontaneous initially. The CM even accompanied us to Delhi a couple of times. Now it is not as active as before. Today reaching the Union government is easier. The Punjab government is not even telling us if it plans to pursue the case.
With the fate of earning members unclear, what is the financial condition of the families?
Of the 27 families in Punjab, I am in touch with 22. The condition of all families is bad. They had taken loans to send their members to Iraq, and with all this happening, the situation has turned worse. The state promised a monthly assistance of `20,000. At least 10 families never got the money, while the rest received it only a couple of times. I blame bureaucracy.
Are you satisfied by the role of the Indian government?
We have met the external affairs minister five times, and she has heard the families with patience. However, till now, she has given us mere assurances and no concrete proof that the men are safe. I feel bad that it kept hiding from us that Harjit Masih was in its custody in Iraq. Now it should put us in touch with him.
What is the way ahead for you?
We have no choice but to rely on our government. It has to come out with concrete steps. I want the Punjab government to be proactive.
Do you ever feel the Union government is hiding something from you all?
We are unclear about the situation. We have no choice but to believe what the government says; but at least it could give us some clarity. It has been five months.