Union external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj's statement in the parliament on the whereabouts of the 39 abducted Indian youths in the Iraqi city of Mosul, have dented the hopes of their kin who believed they were alive and would return home after the fall of the Islamic State (IS). Mrs Swaraj said the Government is making all out efforts in finding the missing Indians in Iraq adding that her colleague Gen. VK Singh had been to Iraq and Saudi Arabia to make enquiries to trace them out.
We can't even take them from the category of "missing" to "believed to be dead". Her statement came after a visit to Iraq by Indian Junior External Affairs Minister V.K. Singh. Swaraj said that though there were inconsistencies in his account, she immediately instructed the embassy to launch a search along the Mosul to Erbil route where Masih claimed the incident had happened.
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan asked Sushma Swaraj to make a statement on the issue.
"There were contradictions in Masih's version".
Referring to the demolition of the Badush jail, she said she had suggested to the Iraqi foreign minister to look for the jail warden and find out details from him about the Indians.
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"We are not sure 100 percent whether they are alive or not", he told reporters, adding that he couldn't say anything more about their fate. "This government won't end the search for our missing citizens until we have proof they are not alive", the Union minister mentioned in the Lok Sabha today. Nearly immediately, Swaraj had announced that there was no proof of the deaths, and that the government would continue to search for them.
Swaraj explained that according to the information that has been received about the missing Indians so far, the group was caught at the Mosul airfield, and taken to a jail, after which they were put to construction work, and then farming, before being taken to Badush jail in 2016...
"If someone feels they are dead, then you are free to go to the families. We have talked to all countries that could have helped in tracing those missing Indians", she said.
The external affairs minister said she had never misled Parliament or the families of the abducted Indians. "I also told them that I am not in touch with any of the missing persons and all my information comes from other sources". I want to ask the Opposition what benefit I will get by misleading. What benefit will my government get by misleading the people on the issue?