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English Translation of EAM’s address in the Rajya Sabha on the issue of 39 Indians in Iraq (March 20, 2018)

March 22, 2018

Chairman Sir, with your permission I would like to provide a very important information to the house. We all know that in the month of June 2014, 39 Indians were captured as hostage by ISIS in Iraq.This topic was discussed many times in the House. The last discussion was held on July 27 in the Rajya Sabha. On July 27, 2017, Hon’ble Bajwa Ji had raised this topic in the Zero Hour and the next day I came to the house to give my reply.

I would like to read what I had said at that time. I had said, "Till the time I have no proof that they have been killed, I will not declare them dead; I will not declare them dead." Deputy Chairman Mr. Kurien was presiding on that day.Making an announcement without any evidence that 'He died' is a sin at individual level and irresponsible at the level of the government, hence neither will I commit this sin nor will I act irresponsibly. But the day I find any concrete evidence and if the Parliament is in session on that day, then I will request to stop its proceedings and inform the country and if the parliament is not in session then I will inform the whole country on twitter within 10 minutes.

Today I have come here to fulfil that promise of mine. Today I have concrete evidence for both the things.First, story of Harjit Masih was not true, and the other, I am saying this with a heavy heart, that those missing people have been killed. And I would like to put the evidences of both the things in front of you.

The proof that Harjit Masih was not speaking the truth is that the last time when General VK Singh went to find them in Iraq, I told him that first of all he must go to Mosul and meet the owner of the company, as hemight get some important clues there. He started his journey from Mosul only and when he spoke to the owner of the company, the owner told the whole story that 40 Indians and some Bangladeshi people used to work for him.

The owner said that when ISIS started occupying Mosul, then heasked all the people who used to work for him to leave. So first all the Iraqi workers left then workers from other countries also left but these Indians and Bangladeshi workers did not leave. So he called a caterer who used to feed them and one day that caterer came and said that once when Bangladeshi and Indian workers were coming to eat, some ISIS people saw them and asked, who are you people? They told them that we are Bangladeshi and they are Indians.

So ISIS people said that you all will not stay here.There was a textile factory which ISIS had occupied, they asked to take the workers there, and they took them all to that textile factory. There the ISIS people said to keep the Bangladeshi and Indian workers separate from each other so both were kept separately there.

One day ISIS people asked to drop the Bangladesh workers to Erbil. Caterer told that they gave this responsibility to me so he got ready to take them in his van to drop them in Erbil. I don’t know what Harjit did that night, he may know better, I’ll tell you what my guess is. He asked the owner of the company that the owner must give Harjit a Muslim name and send him with the Bangladeshi workers. Owner of the company says that he received a call from a person and the caller says I am Ali, to which the owner says that there is no one named Ali who works for him. To which the caller says, I am the one who has to go with the Bangladeshi workers, so the owner of the company says, Ok, Ok. So this caterer is saying that along with the Bangladeshi workers he had dropped Harjit Masih as Ali in Erbil.

Chairman Sir, first time when I spoke with Harjit he had called me from the Erbil only. So when I asked him how did you reach here? He was talking in Punjabi, he said I don’t know. So I said, how is it possible that you don’t know. You are calling me from Erbil, at least tell me how did you reach there? He again said I don’t know but you please rescue me. I said to him that son, we will definitely rescue you but tell me how did you reach there? No Ma’am, I don’t know. I asked him three to four times and every time he said, I don’t know.

Later he concocted the story that all of them were taken to jungle and made to stand in a queue. 39 people were shot in the head and only I was shot in the leg so only I could escape and rest of them were killed. This was all a cock and bull story and his story was not true. He had escaped earlier as Ali with the Bangladeshis in the caterer’s van. So this was all about Harjit Masih.

The caterer further told that next day when ISIS people found out that all the 40 Indians are not there, as they used to do a headcount every night, so they decided that keeping Indians there was not okay and they asked one of the ISIS commanders to take them to Badush. Owner of the company says that he does not know what happened after that as there was a prison in Badush which was under the control of ISIS. He said he had no contact with them after that and he did not knowwhether the ISIS people have kept them in the prison or they killed them.

Taking a cue from that all three of them, General V K Singh, our Ambassador Pradeep Rajpurohit and an official from the Iraq government, because the day I spoke here in the house, that day Iraqi Foreign Minister was here in India and during my bilateral discussions with him I had said to him that when General V K Singh visit there next time I want that an official from Iraq government accompanies him so that it helps him in the search operation. So the Iraqi FM had said, yes, please do send him, we will provide an official.

So these three people, General V K Singh, our Ambassador Pradeep Rajpurohit and the official from the Iraq government left for Badush because the last information was that they were taken to Badush. When these people were searching in Badush then they met a person who told them that there is a moundnearby andit seems a lot of people were buried there together, you must go there and check.

Now when these people went to that mound, not much could be made out from the outside so they contacted the Iraqi authorities that they need a Deep Penetration Radar so that they can check what is lying underneath that mound. Deep Penetration Radar revealed that there are dead bodies underneath the mound. So General Singh asked Iraqi authorities to dig up that mound and exhume the bodies.

Chairman Sir, whole mound was dug up and the dead bodies were exhumed and from those dead bodies we got two things, one, they had long hair and another was a Kada and along with that some ID cards were also found and some shoes which were not from Iraq. So the bodies were exhumed and all the mortal remains which were found from that mound were sent to Baghdad.

Prior to this, since we had not received any call even after 20-22 days of liberation of Mosul so the hope of them being alive was waning and we had started searching for them in the dead bodies from the mass graves. There is a Martyrs Foundation which was examining the mass graves. We had contacted them and asked them to search for our missing people. They said if you can bring the DNA samples, directly from the parents or real brothers and sisters, then we will be able to search for them. So we had send DNA samples of all the missing persons.Four state governments were involved in this, Punjab, Himachal, Bihar and West Bengal. We had contacted the state government and send the DNA samples of all of them to Martyrs Foundation. So the foundation had these DNA samples with them when we sent the bodies from Baghdad to them.

Through our Ambassador we made a plea to the foundation to give priority to this because we think these are our missing people because the bodies that we saw and the evidences that we found, please have a look at them. We are very grateful that they accepted our request and they started the DNA testing of the bodies which we had sent them after exhuming them from that mound. First match was confirmed for a boy named Sandeep, so they informed us that they know about Sandeep. As the number of bodies was 39, so it was also a sign.

After that one after another DNA got matched and our Ambassador used to inform us daily that today we got 5 DNA matches, 8 DNA matches and so on. But yesterday he informed us that there have been 38 DNA matches and for the 39th person, 70% of DNA was matched because the sample was not from his parents, it was from some close relative, but it is still under process and we are not closing it and we will test it again because they were extracting DNA from the bone which is a complex process.

Today, at 1:30 pm IST, the head of Martyrs Foundation herself will conduct a press conference there and inform that the 39 bodies which Indian government had given them, DNA match for 38 of them has been confirmed. She will also give detailed report of the process which they had used for matching the DNA. So the thing which I had said that there is concrete proof of both the things, Harjit Masih escaped as Ali, evidence regarding this is being given by the owner of the company where Harjit used to work and they have been killed because there could not be a bigger evidence than DNA matching.

Chairman Sir, I would like to tell you that this was a very complicated and very difficult task and there were many hurdles in it.Such a big country, desolated desert andsuch a barbaric terrorist organization that when the Mosul was liberated, there were heap of corpses lying all around andfinding our people out of so many dead bodies.

For this I would especially like to express my gratitude towards General VK Singh. He is worthy of so much praise that whatever I praise him, it would fall short. They crossed all the obstacles andendured all the difficulties. The day they went to Badush that night these three people slept on the floor of a small house in the village. Overcoming all the difficulties they still reached to its conclusion. And the thing which I had said that I will not declare them dead without any evidence, I will declare them dead after getting some concrete proof so he really did find that evidence.

But along with that I would like to thank the Iraqi government who accepted our request and provided their officialto assist in the search, otherwise we still would have been looking in the Mass Graves.Chairman Sir, who uses Deep Penetration Radar to look below the mound, then dug it up, exhume the bodies then take them to Baghdad and get them examined, who does that.

And the third gratitude which I would like to express is for Martyrs Foundation who not only accepted our request, this is the matter of July 27, and today they themselvesare going to do a press conference and inform that our DNAs were matched.And I would like to thank our Prime Minister, who persevered this search for three years with great patience and never allowed me to lose heart andalways said that you must continue with this search.

Now, I would also like to say that we have requested our Ambassador to make preparations. We are not stopping just at the announcement, General V K Singh will take an airplane and go to Iraq, and their dead bodies in coffin along with a certificate, not only with the name and passport but a certificate from Martyrs Foundation stating how their DNA was matched and it is the body of this person. General Singh will bring the dead bodies in the airplane.

Airplane will first land at Amritsar because 31 persons among them were from Punjab and Himachal, there we will hand over their dead bodies. After that he will take the same airplane to Patna and hand over the dead bodies to the families of the people from Bihar. And from there he will go to Kolkata and hand over the dead bodies of people from West Bengal.

Chairman Sir, it is said that one can console for death but one cannot console for missing persons. If they had been in the missing category, which they were till now, there is always some hope and there is no closure. But I had said that I will do the closure with concrete evidence.

Today, I would like to say that when we will hand over the mortal remains and the dead bodies of their children to their families then, maybe with tears, but they will be able to do the closure. I would want that today this house pays a homage to them by observing a silence and console their families that after three years, their children are not alive but their mortal remains are reaching to them.

Many many thanks.

(Disclaimer: EAM’s Speech was delivered in Hindi. This is an approximate translation of Speech)

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