Nearly four years after 39 Indian workers went missing in Iraq, the BJP-led NDA government has finally announced that all Indians who had gone missing were killed by the terror outfit ISIS. Out of them, only Harjit Masih who managed to flee from ISIS captivity by posing as Muslim from Bangladesh, was able to survive. He had been maintaining for the last three years that all others had been killed. Masih said they were killed in front of him and wondered why the government had not accepted what he had said earlier. Masih belongs to village Kala Afghana in Gurdaspur district of Punjab.
The mortal remains of the 39 people were discovered under one of the mounds in Badush, a village in northern Iraq, where locals believed mass burials had taken place. Out of the 39 deceased, 27 people were from Punjab, 6 from Bihar, 4 from Himachal Pradesh and 2 from West Bengal.
So far, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and the Government of India had refused to declare them dead and focussed on finding about them. Reports suggest that the government was clear that they do not want to declare them dead, unless there was incontrovertible proof about their death.
“It is a sin to declare a person dead without concrete evidence. I will not do this sin,” Swaraj had said in Parliament last year. She had also said: “I don’t have evidence to say they are alive, but I don’t have proof to say they are dead. So we are continuing with the search operation.”
Talking about the herculean task of finding the remains of all the dead people, Swaraj told Parliament that the victims were construction workers and were employed by an Iraqi company in Mosul. They were taken hostage when the IS took control of Mosul.
In finding information about them, Minister of State for External Affairs General V K Singh had met the factory owner in whose unit the labourers were working in Mosul. According to factory owner, Indian workers refused to leave Mosul despite being told to leave the city after it was captured by ISIS. Swaraj also dismissed Masih’s story, and said he had escaped using the name Ali much earlier. The 39 Indians were sent to Badush.
When General V K Singh, Pradeep Rajpurohit- Indian ambassador to Iraq and an Iraqi government representative reached Badush in search of the missing Indian labourers, they were told by local residents that there was a mound in the city, where mass burials had taken place.
According to Swaraj’s statement, when the trio reached the spot, no mound was visible. It was only when Singh requested for a deep penetration radar that the bodies could be located.
After confirmation, all the 39 bodies of the killed Indians were exhumed from this mound. Swaraj further said that the mortal remains were sent to Baghdad. For verification of bodies, DNA samples of the deceased relatives were sent in the Iraqi capital.
“It had exactly 39 bodies with distinctive features like long hair, non-Iraqi shoes, and IDs. We requested that the bodies be brought out exhumed. This confirmed the death of all 39 Indian nationals.”
The Indian government then approached one Martyr’s Foundation seeking help for establishing the identities of the workers. The DNA samples of 38 people matched and the DNA of the one person has matched only 70 percent.
Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh will be flying to Iraq to bring back their mortal remains to India on a special flight.