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Punjabi youth missing in Iraq: DNA samples of kin finally taken, they fear the worst

On a wing and a prayer: There was an air of uncertainty as the family members, including elderly parents and siblings, gave their samples.

punjab Updated: Oct 28, 2017 21:01 IST
Surjit Singh
Surjit Singh
Hindustan Times, Amritsar
youth missing in Iraq,IS-controlled Iraq,Punjabi youth missing
Sawinder Kaur, mother Nishan Singh who went missing in Iraq, unable to hold back her tears during collection blood samples at the forensic lab of Government Medical College in Amritsar on Saturday. (Sameer Sehgal/HT )

More than a week after the district administration acted on directions of the ministry of external affairs, forensic experts took DNA samples of the family members of eight Punjabi men who are among 39 Indians missing in Iraq since June 2014, at the Government Medical College in Amritsar on Saturday.

The administration contacted the families on Friday after 100 DNA test kits were finally brought from Hyderabad on Thursday night. Collection of blood samples passed off amid a sad atmosphere, as the families fear the identification tests are proof that the men are dead. The Iraqi armed forces have since taken over the town of Mosul where the men were reported to have been kept by the terror group Islamic State.

Sawinder Kaur, 65, mother of missing youth Nishan Singh from Sanguana village, could not stop tears even while giving blood samples. Sister of missing youth Manjinder Singh, Gurpinder Kaur, 32, has been vocal since the beginning to raise this issue with the Union government, and she is given the credit of leading the struggle. She was also seen uncharacteristically quiet through the proceedings and avoided talking to the media.

There was also anger and distrust about the government’s sincerity to trace the men. “They could be rescued if the government would make efforts with sincerity,” said an angry Sarwan Singh, younger brother of Nishan. “If the government could rescue nurses of Kerala from the same country at that time, why did it not show such kind of seriousness in case of the 39 Indian workers? Now, nearly three and half years have passed and little hope has been left behind. The DNA test does not produce much hope, but still we have no option to have hope.”

Sardara Singh, 70, father of one of a missing Gurcharan Singh, sounded edgy: “We got the last phone call from Gurcharan on June 15, 2014. He told me that war had been triggered there and they were trapped by terrorists. Then the phone call was cut and there is no clue about their whereabouts since.”

Earlier, he said, “We have come here for the second time. The process should be over today”. He arrived from Jalal Usma village, 18 km from Amritsar, after the administration made arrangements to bring the families again. Their samples could not be collected on October 21 due to the unavailability of DNA test kits.

One sample to Mohali, other to Iraq

As per the government’s directions, the samples of three members of each family were collected at the college’s forensic lab. Each person gave two samples. A seven-member team, comprising Dr Kuldeep Kumar, Dr Jatinder Pal Singh, Dr Kanwaljit Singh, Dr Sukhdev Singh, Dr Balwinder Singh Dalam, Dr Avtar Singh and Dr Raman Kumar Sharma, collected the samples.

The families came from villages Bhoewal, Chawinda Devi, Sialka, Jalal Usma, Sanguana, Manawala.

The officials said one sample would be sent to the forensic science laboratory in Mohali for the test, while the other will be sent to Iraq.

On the delay, a senior official of the forensic department said on condition of anonymity, “This is a sensitive matter. High-quality kits were needed. Besides, they were required in bulk.”

Families from other parts of Punjab are expected to come here too in the coming days as this is the only lab in nine nearby districts with the facility.

(The story has been updated)

First Published: Oct 28, 2017 15:41 IST