“If they were like her children, where is the sorrow?”
The conduct of the Modi government has been extremely insensitive
Gurpinder Kaur, the sister of Punjab resident Manjinder Singh who was killed in Iraq, heard the news on television and refused to believe that her brother was dead “We should have been contacted as soon as they received the information. Had that been done it would not have been such a huge blow. We feel betrayed.”
Gurpinder perhaps best echoes the words of not just the families who lost their loved ones in Iraq but also the deep sense of betrayal the entire nation feels at the insensitivity of Ms Swaraj’s declaration of their deaths in the Parliament. The minister, she added, had been saying all along that he was alive and they were tracing the location of the abducted workers. “She used to say they’re like her children. If that’s the case where’s her sorrow?”, she asked.
The conduct of India’s foreign minister in the entire episode has been insensitive and devoid of humanity ever since the news stories emerged of the abduction of Indians working in Iraq. Since past four years, the country and the families of those abducted were given false hopes and assurances from the government that they were alive and well. This was reiterated by the foreign minister seven times in the parliament and through press conferences on this issue. No answers from the Foreign Minister are forthcoming on the questions that are being asked by the people of this country and most importantly by the family members, namely:
Why did the Foreign Minister keep the country in the dark despite the eyewitness account coming from the sole survivor Harjit Masih?
The Foreign Minister not just dismissed his version but also went on to claim that she had information from 8 confirmed sources that all the Indians abducted were ‘alive and well.’
Why were reporters who went to Mosul and reported that the chances of the abducted Indians being alive were not just bleak but impossible, also dismissed by Sushma Swaraj?
At every meeting with the families of those abducted Ms Swaraj kept their hopes alive by assuring them that she was in touch through sources with them. Why did Sushma Swaraj not meet their families for more than a year after their last meeting?
Why was it so hard to show some sensitivity, humanity and decency and inform the family before announcing it in the Parliament? Since those now declared dead were the sole breadwinners in the family why has the government no yet announced a compensation package to the family or a government job to a member of the house?
However, this isn’t about the compensation or a job, but also about accountability from the government. It was saddening to watch Ms Swaraj, who takes pride in reaching out to Indians in distress through twitter, but yet when a Congress MP from Punjab demanded answers from her on the missing Indians, she went on to block him on the platform. Where was the much-needed sensitivity that one expects from their government when such an unprecedented incident occurs? While declaring them dead, it was shocking to note how the Foreign Minister did not even spare the solemn announcement by choosing to praise her government and its efforts in tracing these Indians. Last but not the least fail to understand how politics can take over from humanity by keeping the families in the dark about the fate of their loved one?
To conclude, the deliberate denial of the reality despite it staring everyone in the face has become the hallmark of this government, this announcement is a reflection of that. A plea and a reminder to the government – leave your politics aside in such cases, choose humanity and love, because only that survives despite all odds.
Priyanka Chaturvedi is the National Convenor-Communication and National Spokesperson of the Indian National Congress. She tweets at @priyankac19