Can’t declare abducted 39 Indians dead without proof: Sushma

NEW DELHI
26 Jul 2017

No concrete evidence has emerged to conclude that the 39 Indians abducted from Mosul in Iraq three years back have been killed, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj said today and asserted that she "will not commit the sin" of declaring them dead without any proof.

In a forceful statement in the Lok Sabha, Swaraj rejected allegations that she misled the country on the issue and said the government will continue its efforts to trace them until getting evidence of their death. "This file will not close till there is proof that the 39 Indians are dead," she asserted. Her strong assertion on the issue came two days after Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said here that there is no "substantial evidence" on whether the Indians are alive or dead and confirmed that the prison at Badush, their last known location, has been demolished by terror group ISIS.

However, the Congress appeared to be not satisfied with her statement as its leader Mallikarjun  Kharge said : "We will give a notice to discuss foreign affairs and then we will see what you (Swaraj) had said in 2014." Kharge stated this after Speaker Sumitra Mahajan disallowed any questions on Swaraj's statement. Earlier, the external affairs minister, referring to a statement she made in Lok Sabha in November 2014, said whatever she did in the case was with consent of the House.

Swaraj on July 16, based on information gathered by her junior minister VK Singh during his recent visit to Iraq, had stated that Badush jail in northwest Mosul was the last known location of the Indians. The external affairs minister cited an example of the Congress government declaring a soldier martyr in 1971 war and after 45 years, it was found that he was in a jail in Pakistan.

Referring to demolition of the Badush jail, she said she had suggested to the Iraqi foreign minister to look for the jail warden and find out from him details about the Indians. She said even list of prisoners will help. The minister said one person Harjit Masih, who was also abducted along with the 39 Indians but had managed to flee from captivity, had said the Indians were killed but six sources had told the government that they are alive. "There were contradictions in Masih's version. That is why I told our embassy to find out details about them," she said. 

Minister of state for external affairs V K Singh was also sent to Iraq days after the Iraqi prime minister announced victory in the fight to recapture Mosul from ISIS. (PTI)