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Sushma Swaraj Cites Protocol For Not Informing Kin of 39 Indians Killed in Mosul Before Parliament

Swaraj slammed the Congress for indulging in “cheap politics” by disrupting proceedings in the Lok Sabha when she was to make a statement on the deaths of 39 Indians in Iraq.

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Updated:March 20, 2018, 5:33 PM IST
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Sushma Swaraj Cites Protocol For Not Informing Kin of 39 Indians Killed in Mosul Before Parliament
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj addresses a press conference over the death of 39 Indians who were killed in Iraq, in New Delhi on Tuesday. (PTI Photo)
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New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj cited protocol on Tuesday to explain why she had informed the Parliament about the deaths of 39 Indians in Mosul, Iraq, before letting their families know.

“Some kin of the victims have questioned as to why they were not told about the deaths before the Parliament. It is parliamentary procedure to first inform the House, so it was my duty,” she said during a press conference.

Her response came after she came under attack from the opposition parties for showing “insensitivity” to the families of the victims. The Congress and the Left have also questioned the three-year delay in declaring their deaths and created an uproar in the House.

Swaraj, however, took exception to the protests, and said that the Congress was indulging in “cheap politics” by disrupting proceedings in the Lok Sabha when she was to make a statement on the deaths of 39 Indians in Iraq.

“Congress must explain why it disrupted proceedings in the Lok Sabha when I was to give details on the deaths of 39 people in Iraq,” Swaraj told reporters.

She reiterated that the government had not kept anyone in the dark. “It was not falsehood but tireless effort to identify the victims,” she said, adding that no government could declare anyone dead without proof.

Saying that her government does not believe in the theory of "missing, believed to be killed", Swaraj listed the steps taken by the government to get confirmation about the deaths.

“The bodies were exhumed with help from Iraqi authorities from a mass grave in Badush, a village northwest of Mosul. They had distinctive features like long hair, 'kada', non-Iraqi shoes and IDs. The bodies were sent to Baghdad for DNA testing,” she said, adding that the DNA matching took time.

Swaraj said that the first match was that of Sandeep. “Yesterday (Monday) 38 matches were confirmed and the 39th person had been 70 percent matched because DNA of his relatives was used in absence of his parents," she said.

"It has been the most difficult and complex task to get the proof," she said. "Such a barbaric terror organization. There were mass graves. It was a pile of bodies. To track down the bodies of our people and take them to Baghdad to test was a huge task," she added.

The external affairs minister said that it would have been a sin had the government handed over anybody's body claiming it to be those of our people, just for the sake of closing the files. “We had been saying that we neither have the evidence of them being alive nor the evidence of them being dead. We maintained this in 2014 and 2017. We did not keep anyone in dark. We gave no false hopes to anyone,” she said.

Earlier in the day, Swaraj had given a statement in the Rajya Sabha on the issue of 39 Indians being killed while in captivity in Iraq.

A group of 40 Indians were taken hostage by ISIS when it overran Iraq's second largest city Mosul in 2014. One had escaped by posing as a Muslim from Bangladesh, Swaraj said in a statement in the Rajya Sabha. The other 39 are dead and their bodies have been recovered, she said.

Out of the deceased, 27 people were from Punjab, six from Bihar, four from Himachal Pradesh and two were from West Bengal. The identity of one of them is yet to be verified.

The mortal remains will be brought back to India on a special plane and handed over to their relatives. “India might be the first country to get all the bodies back from Iraq after being killed,” she added.
| Edited by: Aakarshuk Sarna
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