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Thursday, February 15, 2024

39 Indians abducted by Islamic State in 2014 are dead: Sushma Swaraj

News Analysis |

Union Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday informed the Parliament that 39 Indians abducted by DAESH in Iraq in 2014 are dead. Their bodies will be brought back to India by General VK Singh, Minister of State, MEA.

In June 2014, Indian officials in Iraq had lost contact with 40 construction workers; most of them were from Punjab. They were working at a government construction project in Mosul, Iraq. The laborers were abducted by Daesh along with some Bangladeshi workers. A few days after their abduction, Daesh had released 55 Bangladeshis. One Indian worker Harjit Masih had also managed to flee and contacted Swaraj.

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Masih had claimed that all 39 Indians were shot dead by Daesh as soon as they were captured but he managed to survive and flee. Masih’s story was initially not accepted by the Indian government and Swaraj had said that there were “sources” claiming the Indians were alive.

In July last year, Swaraj exerted that his junior BK Singh had learned that the abducted Indians were kept in Badush prison of Iraq and made to work in farms by Daesh. However, the Badush prison was completely destroyed during the clash of Daesh and Iraqi forces and the government in Baghdad had declared there were no inmates in the prison.

Until last year, the Indian government claimed even the Iraqi government was not sure whether the Indians were dead or alive. In the wake of claims that the Indians were dead, Swaraj had told the Parliament last year that she won’t declare them dead without “concrete evidence”.

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However, the scenario created protests from the bereaved families of the victims. They assert that they were kept in the dark purposefully by the Indian government for political reasons. They are questioning why the Indian government dismissed Harjit Masih’s testimony despite the fact that it seemed to be credible.

The plea of the victim’s family has the support of many Indian Punjab based organizations. Some allege the government tried to hide their failure in preventing the killings. This, in turn, provoked a social media campaign by pro-government and Hindutva social media activists who are using the anti-Punjabi sentiment among others to tackle the criticism.