A row erupted over the government’s handling of the abduction of 39 Indians in Iraq by ISIS four years ago after it was announced they were dead. Opposition parties and some family members slammed the government over the delay in announcing the death, saying it gave their families “false hope” that they were alive. External Affairs ministry rejected the charge.
The Congress and other opposition parties like the CPI-M and the National Conference also slammed the government for making the announcement of the deaths in Parliament before intimating the families concerned, calling it “insensitive and unpardonable”.
Congress communications incharge Randeep Surjewala said the Modi government has crossed all limits of insensitivity as it preferred to make the announcement of deaths of 39 Indians on television than call up every families of those dead.
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah tweeted, “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). Senior people in MEA, if not the Minister & her junior minister themselves, should have spoken to each of the 39 families before the news of the deaths was made public.”
CPI (M) leader Mohammad Salim said this showed how “insensitive and inhuman” the government was. “The government should have contacted the families of the victims first before Parliament was informed.”
Congress MP Partap Singh Bajwa asked, “Why did Sushma Swaraj mislead the families for more than 3 years.This is complete failure of MEA & GOI. I raised this issue many a times in Rajya Sabha that why is the Government playing with emotions of families by giving them false hopes. Can there be anything more shameful than this?”
Swaraj was quick to hit back, accusing Congress of playing “cheap politics” and asserted that she did not keep anyone in the dark or gave “false hopes”. She said two heads of states in that region had conveyed to India that the 39 Indians were not killed. She did not take any names.
To criticism that the families got to know about death of their loved ones through television, Swaraj said she followed prliamentary procedures. “It was my duty to first inform the House about (it),” she said, adding that India was probably the first country which had managed to bring back all the bodies of its citizens from war-torn Iraq.
The prime minister also defended Swaraj. “The MEA and particularly my colleagues @SushmaSwaraj Ji and @Gen_VKSingh Ji left no stone unturned in trying to trace and safely bring back those we lost in Mosul,” Modi tweeted.