External affairs minister (EAM) Sushma Swaraj on Tuesday cited protocol to explain why she informed Parliament about the killings of 39 Indian citizens in Iraq before letting their families know.
“Some kin of the convicts 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,” said Swaraj, hours after she confirmed the deaths in the Rajya Sabha.
The minister also took exception to the Congress creating uproar in the Lok Sabha, and accused it of “playing politics over death.”
“In Rajya Sabha everyone listened to me speaking very patiently and in peace, everyone paid tribute. I thought same would happen in Lok Sabha. But unlike the past few days of ruckus, today Congress led the protests under Jyotiraditya Scindia ji. Very unfortunate,” she said.
“Today Congress indulged in very low level of politics. Probably Congress president thought how did no uproar happened in Rajya Sabha and decided to ask Scindia ji to lead protests in Lok Sabha. Playing politics on deaths.”
The Union minister reiterated that “it would have been a sin had we handed over anybody’s body claiming it to be those of our people, just for the sake of closing files.”
“I am satisfied that I had stated that will declare them dead only on the day I have concrete evidence. I kept my word. I will get my closure when I hand over the mortal remains to their families and they receive proper last rites,” she declared.
The EAM denied giving “false hopes to anyone” or keeping “anyone in the dark.”
Of the deceased, 27 hailed from Punjab, six from Bihar, four from Himachal Pradesh and two from West Bengal.
The bodies of the deceased, she clarified, had not been discovered from mass graves, but from a mound.
The minister admitted that it was unclear when the missing Indians had been killed.
Last year, the kin of the then-missing citizens were asked to undergo DNA tests. Addressing the incident, Swaraj said that the samples had been collected to match with the bodies recovered from mass graves.
Earlier today, Swaraj confirmed the deaths of the 39 missing Indians who had been kidnapped in 2014 by ISIS in Iraq and said that the DNA samples of 38 people had been matched, while the 39th had matched 70 per cent.
She also informed the House that the story of Harjit Masih, who managed to escape from ISIS, was a lie. Harjit had claimed the Indians were shot dead soon after they were abducted, but that was not how it happened, said the minister.
What happened was that Harjit escaped with some Bangladeshi prisoners who were kidnapped along with the Indians. He had earlier falsely claimed that he was shot in the leg and pretended to be dead.