Indians missing in Iraq: Can I meet the PM, says the voice of 39 waiting families

The 30-year-old teacher’s brother Manjinder Singh is among the missing. Over the last two years, the articulate and determined Gurpinder has taken charge as the voice and face of the affected families.

Written by Navjeevan Gopal , KAMALDEEP SINGH BRAR , Nirupama Subramanian | Hoshiarpur | Updated: June 16, 2016 6:11:24 am
indian hostages, indians abducted, sushma swaraj, family members of indians abducted, indians abducted in iraq, islamic state, isis militants, indians kidnapped, iraq, india iraq, punjabis iraq, punjab iraq, indians iraq, isis, islamic state india, india islamic state, tariq noor al huda, islamic state hostages, iraq, india news, indian express Gurpinder Kaur Cheem

* Today’s June 15. 2 years completed but 39 Indians missing in Iraq did not came back to their homes. When they will come back, Sushma.

* Families of those Indians losing hope. Will they come back or not. What happens. Lots of questions but no ans. Who will give ans.

READ | 39 Indians missing in Iraq: ‘Don’t keep us in the dark any longer… tell us the truth, whatever it is’

IN two tweets today, Gurpinder Kaur Cheem captured the helplessness of the families of the 39 Indians who have remained untraced after their suspected abduction by the Islamic State in June 2014.

The 30-year-old teacher’s brother Manjinder Singh is among the missing. Over the last two years, the articulate and determined Gurpinder has taken charge as the voice and face of the affected families.

“My request to the Prime Minister is that he should meet us at least once, listen to us,” she says, relating how hard she has tried to meet him, without success. “Some time ago, I managed to get the number for a senior official in the PMO,” she says, “and I called him. It was my luck that he picked up. I told him that I want to meet Modiji about my brother and the other boys, but he said that I should contact the MEA. After that I have sent many messages over SMS but there has been no response.”

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Married to a farmer in rural Duasa, and the mother of a 10-year-old boy, Gurpinder speaks Punjabi, Hindi and English fluently. Recently, she tried to catch Modi’s attention on Twitter.

“Our Indian government cannot save its own citizens? I want ans(wers)…Maybe our PM (will) look in this matter,” she said in a series of tweets on January 5. “I have sent so many letters to PM sahib b(u)t no response. It means nobody in india who can help us.” And the last one: “Nobody helping us. From last four months (the) MEA is not responding. PM sahib who will help us.”

Asked if she knew about Modi’s recent trip to Qatar, where he took up the cause of Indian workers, she said had she known beforehand that he was going to visit that country, she would have made an appeal to him to take up the cause of the 39. “I have heard Qatar can help because they have some links in Iraq,” she says.

She has no option but to look to the Prime Minister, she says, because after the initial response from Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj, “there is no information from the ministry”.

After the families last met the Minister in February, they have been trying to get another appointment with her.

She rues that her brother Manjinder was so determined to go abroad for work. After their father had to sell his land in Bhoewal, Amritsar, to finance their mother’s cancer treatment, the family moved to work on a rich relative’s farm in UP.

Manjinder decided to help the cash-strapped family by trying his luck aboard, choosing Dubai after failing to pass the English language test, a qualification required for emigration to the West.

He landed a job in Iraq on his third attempt. In a police complaint, Gurpinder has alleged that the family paid Rs 2 lakh to Harjit Masih — the same man who claimed to have been abducted with the others but escaped from the place where he said the IS shot the rest dead — and his partner Rajbir Singh at their office on Ajnala road near Fatehgarh Churian bus stand.

Gurpinder has said she asked Masih and Rajbir to return the money, saying that the family no longer wanted Manjinder to be sent abroad.

But without informing the family, Manjinder left home, calling them on July 31, 2013 from Delhi airport to say he was going to Dubai with eight more youths including Harjit Masih. But it was Mosul in Iraq where they ended up.

“We couldn’t say goodbye to him. He had told us that he was going to see some relatives in Punjab. Actually we were quite angry with him for his routine trips to Punjab instead of focusing on agricultural,” said his mother, who returned to Bhoewal after her son’s abduction.

Harjit Masih is in jail now on trafficking charges, Rajbir has been declared an absconder after Gurpinder’s complaint, coupled with a prod from the MEA. But Gurpinder says she will not be satisfied until the police establish if Masih was telling the truth when he said all the others had been shot.

“How long can we believe in the Government’s words? To keep hanging on like this without any information about our boys is impossible. Families are breaking up, they are under too much strain, emotionally, financially. There are old parents waiting, young wives waiting. For how long? How can it be that our intelligence agencies are not good enough to get any information?” she asks.

Amid the uncertainty about her brother’s fate, one thing that Gurpinder is certain about is that she will not give up looking. “And I will not allow the government to give up either,” she said.

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