New Delhi (IANS): Amid reports of killing of hundreds of people in Iraq by the jihadist Islamic State group, the families of 40 Indians abducted in June in Mosul city Tuesday asked the Indian government for proof that their men were still alive.
The families of the 40 men, who were employed with a Turkish construction company in Mosul when they were abducted, met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj for around half an hour at the Jawaharlal Nehru Bhavan Tuesday evening.
Sushma Swaraj, emerging from the meeting, told media persons that it was her fifth meeting with the families of those abducted.
“We have five or six sources who are working to get information about the abducted Indians. But while our sources have confirmed that the men are alive, we have not been able to establish direct contact with them.”
She told the families, “I want to assure you that the Indian government will not leave any stone unturned” to trace and rescue the abducted men.
She said India has also appealed to the UN to help in locating the missing men.
“We are searching for them. We have also appealed to the sources to give us some sign, like a kara (bangle), as proof that they are alive so that we can give their families some assurance. But they failed to provide us with it. We have now asked them to provide the names of those who are in captivity, they said they are trying to get the list,” Sushma Swaraj told newspersons.
She said the families had requested that another Indian official be sent to Iraq to assist in the rescue efforts, and she has agreed to the proposal.
“They do understand us and acknowledge the effort that we are putting in,” Sushma Swaraj added.
The families said they asked for proof from the Indian government that the abducted men were still alive.
Jasbir Singh, 24, from Nawanshahr, Punjab, went to Mosul to work as a labourer in a factory eight months ago. His elder brother, Sundar Pal, fast losing hope, was among those who came to meet the minister.
“Jasbir last called up on June 15. He said he has been captured by the IS (Islamic State). He said they were being given food, but they will have to work. He then disconnected the phone,” Pal told IANS.
The family had spent Rs.1.70 lakh to send Jasbir, the youngest of four brothers, to Iraq and were hoping to recover the money fast. Jasbir managed to send back only Rs.30,000 before he was kidnapped.
Manjit Kaur from Jalandhar, Punjab, came to meet the minister, hoping to hear news about her husband Devinder Singh, 42, with whom she last spoke June 15. The couple have three children, five-year-old twins and an eight-year-old boy.
She said her relatives give her money to make ends meet. Her husband went to Iraq three years ago to work as carpenter.
“On June 15, I last spoke with him. He said they have been caught by the IS. He said ‘Kismat rahi to miloonga, bachchon ka khyal rakhna (If fate is kind, we will meet, look after the children),” Kaur told IANS, tears rolling down her cheeks.
Poonam Devi, from Siwan district in Bihar, also came to meet the minister.
Her husband, Vidya Bhushan Tiwari, went to work in Iraq as a labourer and was abducted.
Poonam is staying with relatives since June 15. She has two small children, a boy aged three and a daughter of five.
Sobbing as she spoke to IANS, Poonam said: “He last spoke to me on June 15. He said, ‘We have been imprisoned and are being taken to some other place’. When I asked when will you come, he said, ‘Can’t say’, and cut the phone.”
The 40 abducted men hail from Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Tarn Taran, Amritsar, Kapurthala and Ludhiana districts of Punjab. Two each are from Himachal Pradesh and Bihar, and three are from West Bengal.
B.S. Ramoowalia, senior vice president of the Shiromani Akali Dal, told IANS that Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal met Sushma Swaraj twice earlier with the families of the abducted men.
“The government is doing its best,” he said.
Sushma Swaraj was accompanied by Akali Dal leader and union minister Harsimrat Kaur, daughter-in-law of Parkash Singh Badal.
Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee president Manjit Singh G.K. and general secretary Manjinder Singh Sirsa were also present.