By Aditya Aamir
Finally, it is confirmed that all 39 Indians gone missing, believed abducted by ISIS, in Mosul in Iraq were killed by ISIS and buried in a mass grave there. Told this news, opposition MPs in the Lok Sabha did not let External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj speak and she had to cut short her statement. The Rajya Sabha allowed two minute’s silence but the Lok Sabha refused to even think aloud.
One thing is clear; AIADMK members have no respect for the dead. They trooped into the Well of the House and raised Cauvery at the top of their lungs. Swaraj couldn’t go beyond stating that all the 39 Indians abducted by Islamic State in Iraq’s Mosul in 2014 were killed.
Only one, the 40th, escaped. Swaraj told the Rajya Sabha, which heard her in silence, that the 39 were no more and this was confirmed by DNA matching. The mortal remains will be brought to India by Minister of State for External affairs Gen. V K Singh. The bodies were detected by “deep penetration radar.” Of the 39, mortal remains of 27 have been identified. These include 22 from Punjab, three from Himachal Pradesh and two from Bihar.
The opposition in the Lok Sabha wouldn’t let any of that sink in; they stuck to their own petty politics, storming the Well of the House, raising a ruckus which they are mighty good at. And why should Tamil politicians care about Punjabi, Himachali and Bihari killed by ISIS? If the victims were Tamil, they would have shouted ‘Blue Murder’.
The Congress made the right noises and if the BJP delayed in telling it point-blank to the families of the 39 that they stop ‘hoping’ it should be condemned/questioned but no party can ask ‘the truth should come out’ when the truth is already out.
What is the truth? That truth is that ISIS was cleared from Mosul only towards the end of 2017, and only after then could a search be carried out by the Iraqi authorities. Swaraj had met the families of the 39 in 2015. Last year, she told Parliament she would still not make a categorical statement that the 39 were dead unless she had “proof of death”.
For Congress politicians like Shashi Tharoor to say emphatically that it was “clear to everybody that they were dead” is easily said than proved. Even Tharoor, who questions off-the-cuff statements on the Sunanda Pushkar death, is not beyond making wayward statements. He would have been first to ask Swaraj “What proof do you have?” if she had told Parliament a year or two or three ago that the 39 were dead, “confirmed”. Hell, Tharoor’s United Nations wouldn’t have “confirmed” if asked to do so.
Obviously, the hopes of the families of the 39 stand dashed. But now after the bodies have been exhumed and their DNA testing done in Baghdad, there was no point holding back. “Yesterday we got information that DNA samples of 38 people have matched and DNA of the 39th person has matched 70 per cent,” Swaraj told the Rajya Sabha.
“The plane would first go to Amritsar, then to Patna and then to Kolkata, VK Singh said. The only Congress politician who was sensitive and sober was Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amrinder Singh, who said he was “shattered at the heart-wrenching news”. He mentioned the escape of Harjit Masih who claimed that the others in the group were gunned down on June 15, 2014.
Masih claimed that the 39 were “shot dead”. Tuesday, Swaraj said Masih’s was shooting in the dark; that he himself was “allowed to escape”. The group of 40 men, most of them construction workers, were snatched from war-ravaged Mosul, the northern Iraqi city which was till the middle of 2017 an ISIS stronghold.
Late last year, the Indian government collected DNA samples from the families of the 39 after several mass graves were found in Mosul that was liberated from IS clutches in July. The government had classified the men as missing and had said it would continue its search for them till it received concrete “proof of death.”
The charge against Sushma Swaraj is that she “kept hopes alive”. (IPA Service)