Ms Badal accused Opposition leaders of playing politics over an unfortunate incident.
New Delhi: A political slugfest broke out on Tuesday over the government’s handling of the abduction of 39 Indians in Iraq by ISIS four years ago and their subsequent killings. The Congress and other Opposition parties accused the government of “misleading the nation” over their killings and slammed it for making the announcement of their deaths in Parliament before intimating the families concerned, calling it “insensitive and unpardonable”.
Ghulam Nabi Azad, Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, expressed “shock” and pointed out that just last year the government had “asserted in Parliament that the 39 Indians are alive, but is now saying they are dead.”
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, who had earlier in the day told Parliament that all the 39 Indians abducted in Mosul are dead and their bodies have been recovered, said, “I never gave any false hope to anyone. I was not involved in any falsehood. It was an effort which was perhaps never been made in this country”.
Referring to her statements in Parliament in 2014 and 2017, Ms Swaraj further said, “I had very clearly said that I will declare them dead if I get conclusive proof. I kept my word. I will get my closure when the families receive the bodies.”
The Congress, CPI(M) and the National Conference also slammed the government for making the announcement of the deaths in Parliament before intimating the families concerned.
“Nothing Govt of India says can make up for the sheer heartlessness displayed today. Using Parliament as an excuse for the families of 39 dead Indians having to learn of their heartbreaking loss from TV channels is unpardonable (sic),” National Conference leader Omar Abdullah tweeted.
Reacting to criticism that the families of the 39 Indians had to learn about their heartbreaking loss from television channels instead of the government, Ms Swaraj said she had followed Parliamentary procedures.
“It was my duty to first inform the House about (it).”
Earlier in the day, when Ms Swaraj wanted to inform the House about a “serious” issue, Congress and Left members started shouting “No, no”, drowning out the minister’s voice.
When she began reading her statement, she was repeatedly disrupted by Opposition members, at which an anguished Speaker said wondered whether members have “lost compassion” towards fellow countrymen.
“Don’t indulge in such politics. Don’t be so insensitive. This is a very sorry state. It has never been such a sorry state (of affairs). It is sad,” Ms Mahajan remarked.
A group of 40 Indian workers, most of them from Punjab, were taken hostage by terror outfit ISIS when it overran Iraq’s second largest city Mosul in 2014.
Of the 40 Indians, one Harjit Masih from Gurdaspur had managed to escape and had claimed to have witnessed the massacre of the others. But the government rejected his claim.
“Modi government has crossed all limits of insensitivity. The Indian government had on seven occasions told the families of the 39 Indians kinapped by ISIS in Iraq that they are alive. The question is why did the Modi government mislead the nation and the family members of those Indians kidnapped by ISIS,” Congress communications incharge Randeep Surjewala told reporters.
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor also slammed the government for “encouraging” the families of the 39 Indians kidnapped in Iraq to believe they were alive, a charge countered by Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Union minister for food processing and Akali Dal MP, who said it was important to verify the facts.
Giving falsehood to people is actually cruel and suggests a certain level of lack transparency on part of the government, Mr Tharoor said outside Parliament. It is better to be honest, he added.
Ms Badal accused Opposition leaders of playing politics over an unfortunate incident. Defending the government, she said it took every measure to verify if even one of those kidnapped was alive.
“Do you not think that it is the job of the government and especially the external affairs ministry to carry on looking for even one proof, even one person being alive until the all doors have been shut,” the minister told reporters.