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Families of two men, who are among 39 construction workers whose bodies were found in a mound after they were abducted by Islamic State terrorists in Iraq in 2014, said on Tuesday they were kept in the dark for years by the Centre, which had assured them that the men were alive.
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said in a statement in the Rajya Sabha that their bodies were recovered from Badosh — a village in the northwest of Mosul — and their identities established through DNA testing although it was not immediately known when the Indians were killed.
The mortal remains, which were exhumed, will be brought back to India on a special plane and handed over to their relatives, Swaraj said.
Amarjeet Kaur, the wife of Gobinder Singh of Murar village in Punjab’s Kapurthala, said her family now wants to see him one last time.
“The government should hand over the bodies as soon as possible,” an inconsolable Amarjeet said.
Gobinder, the sole breadwinner of the family, went to Iraq to work in a construction company in 2013 to improve their financial condition after taking a loan of Rs 1.5 lakh.
“I would never have allowed him to go to Iraq if I had an idea that will never come back,” Amarjeet said.
She said her elder son Amandeep Singh, 19, dropped out of school after Class 12 and started working in a factory and she took up household works to make ends meet. Their younger daughter Karandeep (17) is studying in a government school.
Davinder Singh, Gobinder’s brother, said they had been waiting for a response from the central government since 2014 and that it failed to take the right action to bring his brother back safely. He said that even Masih claimed that their family members were gunned down on June 15, 2014, but the government kept lying.
He added they received a call from the government on Tuesday morning about Gobinder’s death.
The family has demanded a government job for Gobinder’s son.
Gurpinder Kaur, the sister another Punjab resident Manjinder Singh killed in Iraq, said she found it difficult to believe her brother was dead because Swaraj had assured her for years that he was alive.
“I heard this on television. Until the MEA (ministry of external affairs) does not contact me, I will not believe this,” Gurpinder said. “We should have been contacted as soon as they received the information. Had that been done it would not have been such a huge blow. We feel betrayed from all sides.”
Gurpinder Kaur, sister of Manjinder Singh killed in Iraq, speaks to the media on Tuesday. (ANI Twitter)
“Yes, she was supposed to announce this in Parliament first but he was part of our family,” she said. “She used to say they’re like her children, if that’s the case where’s her sorrow?”
The minister, Gurpinder added, had been saying all along that he was alive and they were tracing the location of the abducted workers.
Swaraj told the families of the workers last year 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.
Opposition Congress condoled the deaths but its leader and Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad sought to remind the government that it had “assured us last year that the Indians were alive”.
“Why did the govt give false hope to the nation for three and a half years that the people were still alive? That was disappointing behaviour,” Congress legislator Shashi Tharoor said in a tweet.
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