Don’t politicise the deaths of the Indian hostages in Iraq
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Don’t politicise the deaths of the Indian hostages in Iraq

While it is easy to blame the government for keeping hopes alive, it really had no choice but to hope for the best in the absence of any real evidence

editorials Updated: Mar 21, 2018 19:54 IST
Hindustan Times
Seema (L), her sons Karan (C) and Arjun (2L) and her mother in-law Jeeto (R) react following confirmation by external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj that her husband Sonu had been killed in Iraq, Chawinda Devi near Amritsar, Punjab, March 20, 2018(AFP)

The families of the hostages captured in Mosul, Iraq, in 2014, have not yet to come to grips with external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj’s conclusive statement that 39 of the 40 Indians captured in Mosul were slaughtered by their captors and it is only now that their remains have been found.

The government really had no choice but to hope for the best in the absence of any real evidence to corroborate the deaths. Using deep radar penetration techniques, the government has now been able to identify the mass grave in which the hostages were dumped. To its credit, the government made all efforts to find out what happened to the 39 people, including sending officials to visit prisons and other sites where they could possibly have been held. Given that the search — futile as it turned out in the end — was on, it was still not possible to pronounce the hostages dead. Now, with DNA matches, such a conclusion is possible. Ms Swaraj is right when she says, “It would have been a sin had we handed over anybody’s body claiming it to be those of our people, just for the sake of closing files.” The opposition is not willing to buy that, saying that the government had given false hopes to the families all these years.

The magnitude of the tragedy is such that it ill behoves politicians trying to extract mileage from it. No one could have predicted this nor could anyone have done anything more than was done to ascertain their whereabouts. The families have suffered enough and the main focus should now be on how to help them cope. For many, the person lost was the family’s only breadwinner and they will require assistance in the weeks and months ahead.

It might be politically tempting to attack the government on this issue and perhaps there is some merit in the fact that families should have been told before the announcement in Parliament. This, according to the government, was not owing to lack of concern or insensitivity, but part of protocol. But now that those who have lost family members have some closure, there must be support from all parties and, indeed, civil society for them. They will also need other assistance like counselling and jobs to help them piece their lives together again. Politicians across party lines should be united in their mourning for the bereaved, and in their support of them.

First Published: Mar 21, 2018 19:04 IST