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Indian workers killed in Mosul were illegal immigrants, embassy had no record of them: VK Singh

General Singh admitted that this isn’t the time to raise the issue but said that “it is a fact that they (the workers) went there (Iraq) through an illegal agent”.

india Updated: Apr 02, 2018 23:08 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, Amritsar
Mosul,Iraq victims,Indian workers
Family members mourn near a casket containing remains of one of the Indians abducted by the Islamic State group in 2014, that were found in a mass grave outside Mosul in Amritsar on Monday. (PTI Photo)

The Indian workers killed in Mosul were illegal immigrants and the Indian embassy in the country had no record of them, General (retd) VK Singh, minister of state for external affairs, on Monday at Sri Guru Ram Das Jee International Airport at Amritsar after bringing back the mortal remains of 38 of them.

The fate of the 39 workers was unclear till last month when external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said they were dead. Hindustan Times reported subsequently, citing the doctor responsible for the forensic studies of the bodies found in Mosul, that the deaths happened at least a year back. The workers went missing in 2014. A 40th worker, who escaped, claimed the others were killed by Islamic State fighters, but his version of events was not accepted by the Indian government. The body of the 39th worker wasn’t brought back because there hasn’t been a complete DNA match in his case.

General Singh admitted that this isn’t the time to raise the issue but said that “it is a fact that they (the workers) went there (Iraq) through an illegal agent”. Referring to a group of 46 nurses from Kerala rescued by India in 2014 from the clutches of Islamic state, the Minister said this was possible only because the country had a record of them.

“I want all the Indians go abroad legally. Besides, they should go safely and with proper training”, he said, adding, “As far as illegal travel agents are concerned, state governments is responsible for law and order and they should arrest such agents and should take legal action against them”.

Punjab cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu who was present at the airport said that his government plans to do this through a law that will be introduced soon.

Singh added that the Indian government left no stone unturned in efforts to save the workers and that Indian officials paid four visits to Iraq for this purpose. “I visited Iraq first on July 11 last year when we learnt that Mosul had been liberated by the Iraqi army from the terror group. I stayed there for 6-7 days to look for the abducted Indians, but had no clue of their whereabouts because the battle had not ended. ”

“On basis of the information gathered during the first visit, I again visited Iraq in the month of October, to continue the search. We met owner of the company in which the missing Indians worked, and their cook. We also took the help of (local) TV and Radio (stations) in the drive, asking the public if they had any information”, he explained.

“While searching for them, we repeatedly heard the name Bodush village from the people there. Someone told us that some dead bodies were buried near this village. When we visited the spot we found dead bodies of the Indian workers through a ground penetration radar. We recognized them through their hair and kara”, he said. Sikhs sport long hair and many also wear a bracelet called the kara.

Singh said that both the state and the central government are “sensitive to the issue” and that during her meeting with families of the dead in Delhi, Swaraj had “asked them to give details of a family member who can be given a government job.” This is not “a game of football,” he said.

Nor he added, in response to a query on compensation, was this like “distributing biscuits”.

The minister also advised the kin of the deceased works to steer clear of politicizing the issue. ““My suggestion to the families is that we have got back your people. Do their last rites. Don’t get involved in unnecessary politics,” he said.

First Published: Apr 02, 2018 23:07 IST