Sushma Swaraj on Indians killed in Iraq: Followed procedure, informed parliament before families
Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday said in the Rajya Sabha that all the 39 Indians abducted by the ISIS terror outfit in Mosul in Iraq three years ago are dead and their bodies have been recovered.india Updated: Mar 20, 2018 17:15 IST
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said on Tuesday she was duty-bound to tell Parliament first about the death of the 39 Indians abducted by the Islamic State in Iraq and the government did not keep anyone in the dark amid criticism that their families were not informed about their relatives.
“Since the session of the Parliament was on, it was my responsibility to inform the House first,” Swaraj said during a press conference.
“I had told the House continuously for three years that until I get proof of their death, I will not close any file. 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,” she added.
Swaraj rejected the allegations by victims’ families that they were given false assurances by the Centre, saying “it wasn’t a falsehood, this was a tireless effort”.
“We had been saying that we neither have the evidence of them being alive nor the evidence of them being dead. We maintained this in 2014 and 2017,” she said.
“I can understand the anger of families, I see it as a natural reaction but I would like to say that I have never kept them in the dark,” she added.
A group of 40 Indian workers, mostly from Punjab, were taken hostage by the IS when it overran Iraq’s second largest city Mosul in 2014. Of the 40, Harjit Masih from Gurdaspur had managed to escape by faking his identity as a Muslim from Bangladesh and claimed to have witnessed the massacre of the others. But the government rejected Masih’s version.
Swaraj also criticised the Congress for “playing politics over dead bodies” after the main opposition party did not let her speak in the Lok Sabha.
“Today, Congress indulged in a very low level of politics. The Congress president probably thought how there was no uproar in the Rajya Sabha and decided to ask (Jyotiraditya) Scindia ji to lead protests in the Lok Sabha,” she said.
The minister said that the bodies of the Indians were recovered from a mound in the war-torn country’s Badosh area.
“We did not get these bodies from the mass graves. We got these bodies when VK Singh (minister of state for external affairs) went to Badosh and got a lead,” Swaraj said.
She said out of the 39 dead, 27 people were from Punjab, six from Bihar, four from Himachal Pradesh and two from West Bengal. The identity of one of them is yet to be verified, she added.
The minister said it was premature to answer questions about compensation to the families of the victims.
“We have to talk to the state governments as well. Let us hand over the bodies first.”
Swaraj had said earlier on Tuesday in a statement in Rajya Sabha that the Indians’ bodies were recovered from Badosh — a village in the northwest of Mosul — and their were identities established through DNA testing although it was not immediately known when they were killed.
The government was told on Monday that the DNA of 38 Indians matched with the remains of bodies found. One body was a 70% match, Swaraj said.
Last year, Swaraj told the families of the workers that an Iraqi official, quoting intelligence sources, had told minister of state for external affairs General (retd) VK Singh that the Indians were made to work at a hospital construction site and then shifted to a farm before they were put in a jail in Badosh.