At Rs 250 per day, Harjit Masih now earns a fourth of what he did in Iraq, but the man who “miraculously” escaped Islamic State (IS) militants says he is “better off”.
The 25-year-old, who was kidnapped along with 39 other Indians by the IS in Iraq last year, has started working as a daily wage labourer in Parowal village in Gurdaspur district, close to his home in Kala Afghana village.
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“I might be getting only Rs 250 a day here, much less than the daily earning of more than Rs 1,000 when I did overtime in Iraq, but I am better off at my place… especially after all that I have gone through,” he said.
But Masih, whose account that the 39 Indians were “killed” by the IS contradicted the Indian government’s claims, is still struggling to find his feet and reconcile with the fact that he has no fixed source of income.
In fact, Masih, who is currently working as a labourer for the construction of a church, has no idea where how he is going to make a living once this project winds up. “I was working in a grain market till a few days ago and used to earn Rs 400 a day. But the demand for labourers went down, and I had to look for work elsewhere. The construction of the church is also likely to finish tomorrow. I’ll again have to look for work,” Masih, who started working about 10 days ago, said.
Vicky, the contractor for whom Masih is working, said he might retain him if more construction jobs come up.
With some men from Punjab who fled Iraq now thinking of going back, Masih said he would “never” contemplate such a thing. “I ask everyone not to go to Iraq,” he said.
Recalling his abduction on June 11 last year, Masih said, “IS militants took us to a basement on the first night. Then they took us to a yarn factory and put us into a vehicle after telling us our passports had been traced and we would be sent back home.”
He claimed that after driving for half an hour, the men were asked to get down, and killed by the militants. But Masih claims he feigned death after being hit on the leg, and managed to escape.
He further alleged, “When I gave this account to Indian officials last year, they never questioned it. Now, the government is contesting my claims.”
He also claimed the government had assured him he would be given a job after being provided computer training. “I went to Dharamsala for training but nobody got in touch with me, so I returned home,” he said.