JUNE 15 — that’s the date they were taken captive by the ISIS, that’s the date everyone mentions when you ask when was the last time they spoke with their relative in Mosul. And then there is silence that quickly gets filled with fear, despair and “all kinds of stories.” From the men made to work in a factory to being asked to haul ammunition.
The Indian Express tracked down several families who are waiting for news from their relatives, most of them working as construction workers, among the 40 gone missing in Mosul. And each had the same story: a call over 60 days ago saying all was well and then silence.
* “From 10 am to 3 pm on June 15, I made several calls to my brother. He told me that they (he and all the other Indian men) were in the custody of ISIS militants. He told me that the militants were giving them food. He also told me the militants were saying that they would send them back to India. But he told me that he was not sure what was going to happen with them,” says Gurpinder Kaur, sister of 24-year-old Manjinder Singh who is missing and a resident of Bhoewala village in Amritsar.
* For Charanjit Singh of Gurdaspur, the last call was June 18 when he heard from his brother Nishan Singh, 28. “He said he was safe in ISIS custody but that his cellphone was running out of power. There has been no word from him since and we are terrified what might be going on, given that we are hearing all kinds of stories”.
* Raman Thakur, brother of 29-year-old Aman Kumar, lives in Passu village in the Kangra and is currently in Ludhiana. “I had a telephonic conversation with my brother Aman last time on June 15 at about 7:30 pm. He told me that he was in the captivity of ISIS militants but was all right. The government is saying that it is doing its level best to secure the release of abducted men. We have no option but to trust them.”
* Mother Ranjit Kaur of Sialka village in Amritsar says she was the one who called her son Jatinder Singh — his phone had run out — and he told her that the militants had told him to carry his baggage with him. “The Government is telling us that our children are safe. We can only believe if we get some proof of that,” says Kaur.
* Harbhajan Kaur of Babowal village in Amritsar, mother of missing man Harsimranjit Singh (23), says she last spoke to her son on June 15 when he called her up at 3 pm that day. “He told me to take care of his father. There had been tragedies in the family where I had already lost my two brothers and perhaps my son did not want to give another shock to me, so he did not tell that he was in captivity. Upar vi taan ik sarkaar hai (There is also a government of the God),” she says.
* Seema, wife of missing Sonu (35): “My husband had last talk with my brother-in-law (dewar) Heera Lal on June 15. My husband told him that a war had broken out there and militants had abducted them.”
* Krishna, mother of Parminder Kumar of Jagatpur village in Nawanshashr, said she called up her son on June 15. “My son told me that he was kidnapped by terrorists and I don’t know about him.”
* Manjit Kaur, sister-in-law of Jasbir Singh of Mehandpur village in Nawanshahr, said that she talked to him on June 14 and 15 and he said he was locked up “in some place” and his passport had been taken away. “Government officials told us they are out of danger but when we asked to arrange a chat with them, they said the men could not be reached at the moment,” said Manjit.
* Parwinder Singh, brother of Kamaljit Singh of Chauuani Kalan village in Hoshiarpur, last talked to his brother on June 17. He said that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) informed him recently that all kidnapped youth are safe in Mosul.
* Veena, wife of Gurdeep Singh from Jaitpur village in Hoshiarpur, said she last spoke to her husband on June 14. She said that she met Union Minister for External Affairs Sushma Swaraj and other officials three times in Delhi and they told her that her husband is alive in Iraq and will be brought back soon.
* Amarjit Kaur, wife of Gobinder Singh of Marar village of Kapurthala, spoke with her husband on June 15. “Since then, there has been no call from him nor can we contact him since,” she says.
* Shimbo, mother of Kulwinder Singh, 25, of Khan Ke Fatehgarh village in Jalandhar, said that Kulwinder phoned her on June 15 but she could not speak to him because she was travelling in a bus. He then called his brother in-law Parwinder Singh in Hoshiarpur. “He told Parwinder they were kidnapped and may not be able to call any more. We went to Delhi two weeks back and the government told us that they all were fine,” said the mother.