A special plane carrying the bodies of 38 of 39 Indians, who went missing in Mosul in June 2014 and whom the government recently declared dead, is expected to land in Amritsar on Monday.
On Sunday, Minister of State for External Affairs V K Singh left for Iraq to bring back the mortal remains of those killed. The 39th body is not being brought back now since DNA testing had only provided a 70 per cent match; the others have had more than 95 per cent match.
“The minister left around 1 pm from the Hindon airbase and is expected to return with the bodies tomorrow,” an official said. From Amritsar, Singh is expected to Patna, followed by Kolkata to hand over bodies to their relatives, official sources said.
Earlier this month, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had told Parliament that as many as 40 Indians were abducted by terror group ISIS from Mosul in Iraq in June 2014, but one of them, Harjit Masih, had escaped by posing as a Bangladeshi Muslim. The remaining 39 Indians were taken to Badoosh and killed, she had said.
Of the 39 who died, 27 are from Punjab, four from Himachal Pradesh, two from West Bengal and six from Bihar. The Punjab government has deputed Local Bodies minister Navjot Sidhu to receive the mortal remains at the airport. Haryana Food and Civil Supplies minister Krishan Kapoor and Deputy Commissioner, Kangra (Himachal Pradesh), Sandeep Kumar will be present at the airport to receive the mortal remains of those from their state.
Some of the family members of the victims said doctors and the district administration had advised them not to open the coffins and conduct the last rites immediately, “within 15-20 minutes of bodies reaching homes”. The last rites will be performed under the supervision of district administrations in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.
“We wanted to keep the remains for a couple of days because some of our relatives have to reach from faraway places, but the district administration has advised us that it would not be possible to keep the remains for long. We have now planned to do the cremation around 4 pm tomorrow,” said Surinder Kaur, mother of Gurdeep Singh of Jaidpur village in Punjab.
Parwinder Singh, brother of Kamaljit Singh of Chauni Kalan village in Hoshiarpur district, said, “We have been advised to not even open the coffin. Though we understand the condition of the body won’t be good, we will still request the district administration to allow us one last look.”
When asked about the request of the kin, a Deputy Commissioner from Doaba region, who didn’t want to be named, said, “We are going strictly by the government’s instructions.”
Meanwhile, a parliamentary panel standing committee headed by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor has called a meeting on Monday to deliberate upon the “safety and security of Indian workers in conflict zones”.