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Indians killed in Iraq: ‘All these years they assured us my son is alive, today they say he is dead. Which do I believe?’

For 4 years, 39 families were assured by govt that their sons, husbands and fathers abducted in Iraq were safe. Now, they describe how their hopes were dashed

New Delhi |
Updated: March 21, 2018 10:06:35 am
Sukhwinder Kaur, mother of Manjinder Singh, breaks down in Bhoewal, Amritsar, after he was declared dead. (Photo: Rana Simranjit Singh)

Written by Santanu Chowdhury, Anju Agnihotri Chaba, Divya Goyal, Raakhi Jagga, Santosh Singh, Kamaldeep Singh Brar, Ashwani Sharma

Punjab
News confirmed by district authorities

Pritpal Sharma, 51, of Dhuri town in Sangrur, is survived by his wife Raj Rani, son Neeraj and daughter Diksha. “All these years, minister Sushma Swaraj kept telling us that all the missing persons were alive and our hopes never died. And today, we got this shocking news,” Raj Rani said.

Pritpal, an electrician, went to Iraq in 2011. His son Neeraj, 29, works as a security guard, earning Rs 10,000, while his family — like the families of others of Punjab abducted in Iraq — has been getting Rs 20,000 a month from the state government. Diksha is a college student.

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Read | Indians killed in Iraq: For 4 years, swinging between hope, despair

“The last time I spoke to my father was in June 2014, on Skype,” Neeraj told The Indian Express. “It was only when Amreshwar Singh, SDM Dhuri, visited us this afternoon, that we realised the news was correct.” The SDM said, “We did not want to give the family a shock, so I went myself and informed them that the Union government has confirmed that Pritpal Singh is no more” —Raakhi Jagga

***

Family members of Kulwinder Singh, one of the victims, in Jalandhar. (Express Photo)

‘Tomorrow they can’t show us some bones and say these are my son’s’

MANJINDER SINGH, 28, of Bhoewal village in Amritsar, is survived by his parents Hardeep Singh and Sukhwinder Kaur. His sister Gurpinder Kaur, who is married, said: “For four years, the Union minister was meeting us as if we were part of a family. Today, the minister ended the story by issuing a statement on television. Why were we informed in such an insensitive manner? What stopped them from calling all of us and then telling us in person?”

Manjinder, who had cleared IELTS, was allegedly duped by an agent who had promised a job in Dubai. Sent to Iraq instead, he worked as a labourer. He had paid the agent Rs 3 lakh after mortgaging his home. “We have just half an acre of land and are in debt. After Manjinder, there is no other breadwinner. My mother is a cancer patient,” Gurpinder said.

Read | Indians killed in Iraq: Families’ anguish, say were kept in dark for so long

MALKIT SINGH, 34, of Telianwal village in Batala City, Gurdaspur, is survived by his wife and parents Sukhdev Singh and Nirmal Kaur. “They are saying our son has died. Is it even possible to locate a body after four years of death? We are not performing any last rites as there is no reason to believe the government now. The minister has not given us any proof,” said Nirmal Kaur. “The fact is no one in the central government ever took the case of Punjab’s men seriously.”

Malkit’s parents are struggling to repay a Rs 2 lakh loan they had taken to send him abroad. The family’s only source of income is the financial assistance of Rs 20,000 the state government is giving the families. Malkit did a course in air-conditioner repair, got married, and went to Iraq five months later.

DHARMINDER KUMAR, 30, of Talwandi Jhurian village in Gurdaspur is survived by his parents Raj Kumar, 60, and Kanwaljit; sister Dimple and brother Sunil. He was not married. The family demanded evidence that he is dead. “We want his mobile, clothes, DNA report or any other credible evidence. We don’t believe the government anymore. Tomorrow they cannot show us some bones and say that these are the mortal remains of my son,” Kanwaljit said.

Dharminder was working as a plumber before going to to Iraq. His sister Dimple supports her parents by tailoring clothes.

Gurcharan Singh’s two children and other relatives mourn in Jalal Ussma village of Gurdaspur district. (AP)

GURCHARAN SINGH, 36, of Jalal Ussma, Gurdaspur, is survived by his wife Harjeet Kaur; son Amanjot, 8, and daughter Navdeep, 11; and parents Sardara Singh, 72, and Joginder Kaur. “Why were we kept in dark for four years? Where is the body? I want to see the body of my husband. Until then, there will be no last rites in our home,” said Harjeet Kaur. Sardara said: “Whenever we visited Delhi, the minister would assure us that our sons were all right. I went there 12 times.” Gurcharan paid an agent Rs 8 lakh for going to Iraq. His father, a cancer patient, said he cannot afford the treatment that costs Rs 40,000 a month.

KANWALJIT SINGH, 30, of Rupoowali village, Gurdaspur, is survived by his wife and 4-year-old daughter — they now live in the wife’s ancestral home — and his parents Harbhajan Singh, 70, and Mohinder Kaur. His two sisters are married; a brother died earlier. “My daughter-in-law moved to her parent’s home a year after he went missing. Now her parents want a divorce but while he was missing, the divorce formalities could not be completed,” said Harbhajan Singh. His wife said: “Whenever we met minister Sushma Swaraj, she would not give the slightest hint that they are not all right. Today, suddenly a brick has been thrown at us”

Kawaljit, formerly a crane operator in Iraq, never saw his daughter, born two months after he left abroad.

Others of Punjab
Devinder Singh
Sukhwinder Singh
Balvir Chand
Rakesh Kumar

Written by Divya Goyal

***

MEA Sushma Swaraj addressing the press over the death of the 39 Indians in Mosul, Iraq. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

‘Govt should have told us truth four years ago, spared us this torture’

KAMALJIT SINGH, 32, of Chhauni Kalan in Hoshiarpur, is survived by his wife Harvinder, 32, now staying with her parents along with son Manpreet, 7, and daughter Simarjeet, 5; his parents Bhajan Lal and Santosh Kumari; and two brothers. “I lost both my son and his family. We had taken a loan to send him to Iraq. We have no income and have to repay the loan and pay interest; at this age, my husband has to do menial labour,” Santosh Kumari said.

SURJIT MENAKA, 39, of Chuharwali in Jalandhar, is survived by his wife Usha Rani, 33; twin sons, 7; mother Harbhajan Kaur, 62; and two brothers working in the Middle East; their sister is married. “Why did the government keep giving us false hopes all these years? I have to work at this age and go from door to door to sell milk,” Harbhajan Kaur said. “We don’t hope even to get the mortal remains of my husband,” said Usha who rears cattle and stitches clothes, earning Rs 1,500-2,000 a month. They had borrowed over Rs 1 lakh to send Surjit to Iraq to work as a carpenter; the government gives them Rs 20,000 a month.

Read | Always said they were killed, says lone survivor Harjit Masih

KULWINDER SINGH, 30. of Khan-ke-Fatehgarh in Jalandhar, is survived by mother Shimbo, 55, wife Amandeep Kaur, 32, and twins. “Why did the government keep us in the dark for four long years?” said his mother. “I see nothing ahead,” said his wife, who works as a domestic help and earns around Rs 1,000-Rs 1,500 per month. Singh’s mother too works as a domestic help and in a football factory, earning Rs 20-22 for every football she stitches.

BALWANT RAI, 57 of Dhadda in Jalandhar, is survived by his wife Gian Kaur, adult sons Pawan (a dropout) and Rakesh (working at a photographer’s studio), and mother Simro. Gian Kaur works in a football factory and earns around Rs 700-800 per month. “If my husband were alive, both my sons would have completed their education and got respectable jobs. Today’s news has shattered all my hopes. I have lost all faith in the government,” Gian Kaur said.

ROOP LAL, 42, of Bath Kalan in Jalandhar, is survived by his wife Kamaljit Kaur and two teen sons. Living in a rented house, his wife works as a domestic help. “My parents are so poor that I can not even ask them for any help. My in-laws threw me out but villagers supported me,” said Kamaljit. “The government kept us in the dark. They should tell us what they did to save my husband in the last four years.”

SANDEEP KUMAR, 34, of Aliwala, Jalandhar, is survived by his parents Tarsem and Sumitra, and a brother and two sisters; two other sisters are married. Sumitra recently had an eye surgery in a free camp; Tarsem can barely stand on his feet. “I wanted to study further after 10+2 and my brother had promised to support me. The hopes of four years are shattered,” his brother said.

NAND LAL, 47, of Talwan in Jalandhar, is Sandeep Kumar’s maternal uncle. His sister Sumitra said: “My brother Nand Lal had gone to Iraq first. He called Sandeep there. Now, both have been declared dead.”

PARMINDER KUMAR, 36, of Jagatpur in Nawanshahr, is survived by parents Jeet Ram and Krishna; a younger brother; wife Anju and a son, 6. Krishna said repeated crying damaged her eyes; she was recently operated for cataract. Jeet Ram said he met Union minister Sushma Swaraj 15 times and she kept him telling him Parminder was fine. “My son went abroad in 2011 and never saw his son,” Jeet Ram said.

JASBIR SINGH MEHANDPUR, 27, of Mehandpur in Nawanshahr, is survived by his bedridden father Bakshish Ram, mother Surjit Kaur and three brothers his two two sisters are married. All brothers do menial labour. “The government should have told us the truth four years ago and spared us the torture of this uncertainty,” Bakshish Ram said.

GURDEEP SINGH, 41, of Jaitpur, Hoshiarpur, is survived by his parents Mukhtiar Singh and Surinder Kaur; wife Anita Rani; daughter Ankita, 8, and son Arshdeep, 5. His mother fainted at the news of the death and was briefly admitted to a hospital. Anita Rani said the government “should have told us the truth much earlier”.

GOBINDER SINGH, 45, of Murar in Kapurthala, is survived by father Baljinder Singh; wife Amarjit Kaur; son Amandeep Singh, 20, and daughter Karandeep Kaur, 17. Amandeep, who once wanted to do B Tech, is now working for daily wages in a distillery. Amarjit Kaur said: “The family had resigned itself to the fact that Gobinder was no more. That said and done, the government kept us in the dark all these years and we suffered because of this uncertainty.” —Anju Agnihotri Chaba

***

‘They will bring corpses, say they did a great job’

JATINDER SINGH, 25, of Sialka in Amritsar, is survived by his parents Ranjit Kaur and Balkar Singh. They have very small landholdings. There is a younger brother, Baljinder Singh, working in Dubai; his parents got him married after Jatinder went missing. “We are not sure if we should believe this news or not. All these years the government was claiming my son was alive. Today it announced he is dead. Which statement should I believe? Tomorrow, they will bring somebody’s mortal remains and tell me he is my son, and they expect me to believe it?” said Ranjit Kaur.

HARSIMRANJIT SINGH, 28, of Babowal in Amritsar, is survived by his parents Harbhajan Kaur and Tarsem Singh. They used to run a small shop in one room of their two-room house. “The government once said they had searched every corner of Mosul and found nothing. Now suddenly they have found a mound, used radars to discover bodies and excavated them and identified them as our sons. Now they shall bring corpses and present them to us saying they have done a great job. It is an insult, and a joke that the government played with us,” said Harbhajan Kaur.

SONU MASIH, 33, of Chawinda Devi in Amritsar, is survived by wife Seema Devi and sons Karun and Arjun, 10 and 12. Seema was suffering from TB but had to work as a labour hand after Sonu went missing. “The minister told me my husband will come back; now they say he is dead. They told us the government even spoke to the hostages… How did they suddenly get proof of their death?” Seema Devi said.

RANJIT SINGH, 30, of Manawala, Amritsar, is survived by his mother Balwinder Kaur. His sister Jasvir Kaur and her husband Tarsem Singh have been living with Balwinder Kaur since Ranjit went missing. “We want the government to produce the body of my brother. Otherwise we will not accept that he is dead,” Jasvir Kaur said.

HARISH, 30, of Amritsar is the brother-in-law of Malkit Singh of Gurdaspur, who too is among those declared dead. They had gone to Iraq together. Harish’s parents are now living in Amritsar, with his brother Manish. “The government was lying to us from day one. They had to reveal it now; they couldn’t have done so just before the Parliament elections,” Manish said.

NISHAN SINGH, 30 of Sangoana, Amritsar, is survived by his parents Gurmej Singh and Sawinder Kaur, and brother Sarwan Singh. His wife Kulwinder Kaur is staying with her parents. Married in 2011, they have no children. Nishan’s parents and wife split the monthly assistance of Rs 20,000 from the state government. “We are yet to pay the loan we took to send Nishan to Iraq,” said Sarwan Singh. —Kamaldeep Singh Brar

***

Himachal Pradesh
‘Knocked every door, our destiny hear this now’

INDERJEET, 29, of Kadreti village in Kangra, is survived by his parents Pardesi Ram and Sulochana Devi. “I knocked on every door, from meeting Union minister Sushma Swaraj to meeting former CM Shanta Kumar,who also wrote to Swaraj, but nothing came out of these efforts. It was our destiny to hear this after four years,” said Vijay, Inderjeet’s brother.

The family had borrowed Rs 1.30 lakh to send Inderjeet, formerly a daily wager, to Iraq, where he worked as machine operator. His father and brother work as farmhands.

SANDEEP KUMAR, 41, of Dhameta village in Kangra, is survived by his wife Chandresh Kumari; daughter Pulkit, 11, and son Rudhransh, 8; and his parents. They live below the poverty line. Anita, one of Sandeep’s three sisters, said: “We lived from one minute to the next in wait for the call that he is alive. Today, the truth has come out. No one can be blamed, except destiny.”

Earning from farm labour and hoping to send his children to a good school, Sandeep went to Iraq to work as a machine operator. His wife has been looking for a daily wage job at the local BDO or SDM office, and met previous chief minister Virbhadra Singh and current CM Jai Ram Thakur with a job request or a monthly grant like the Punjab government gives families of the missing.

AMAN KUMAR, 34, of Passu village in Kangra, is survived by his parents Veena Devi and Ramesh Chand, and an elder brother. “The Centre did not tell us the truth all these years. The minister kept saying all 39 Indians are alive but now the truth has come out,” said Ramesh Chand, a retired serviceman.

Aman had gone to work in a construction firm, against his family’s wishes. “I gave him Rs 70,000 though I had reservations. Today, I have suffered,” Ramesh Chand said. Aman sent home Rs 40,000 in April 2014, and last called on June 15, 2014, telling his family that he had been abducted.

HEMRAJ, 32, of Bayal village in Mandi district, is survived by his wife Nirmala Devi, 30; children Dhruv, 9,and Ananya, 4 (born days after he had left); ailing parents; and grandmother. “He went abroad in the hope of prosperity but now the last ray of hope has gone,” his uncle Sher Singh said. A needy family that owns a little land, they have been borrowing from relatives and villagers. Hemraj did a driving job in Iraq. His schoolboy son has no memory of him. A few months ago, when blood samples were collected for DNA profiling, Hemraj’s wife was quoted as saying, “I will wait for him until my last breath to know if he is alive or dead.” —Ashwani Sharma

***

West Bengal
‘I was waiting for him, now this on TV’ 

KHOKAN SIKDAR, 46, of Ilsamari Madhyapara village in Nadia, is survived by his wife Namita, a teenage daughter, a nine-year-old son, and mother.

SAMAR TIKADAR, 42, of Mahokhula village in Nadia, is survived by his wife Dipali and two children. “I got the news through television a few hours ago. I don’t know what to say now. I had been waiting for him to come back to us,” Namita told The Indian Express. Khokan’s brother-in-law Subhas Biswas said they would urge the central government to bring back the body. “This is shocking news to us. He has four sisters and all of them are devastated. He was the only earning member of the family. What will happen to the family now?” Biswas said. Sikdar had left for Iraq in 2011. —Santanu Chowdhury

***

Bihar
‘Only on TV, no word from govt’

“Though we heard the news on TV about Bidya Bhushan Tiwari and Santosh Kumar Singh of Siwan being among 39 dead, we have not got any official confirmation,” said Purushottam Tiwari, a relative of Bidya Bhushan Tiwari. —Santosh Singh

Others of Bihar
Adalat Singh
Sunil Kumar Kushwaha
Dharmendra Kumar
Raju Kumar Yadav
(Last one to be verified)

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