Receiving family members, working abroad, at the airport is usually a moment to celebrate in the “foreign-crazy” Punjab, but for family members of 27 men killed in Iraq’s Mosul by the Islamic State terrorists it was nothing short of nightmare when the special place carrying their mortal remains arrived at the Amritsar airport on Monday afternoon.
For four long years, these families had been praying and waiting for information on the well-being of their loved ones, who went to work in Iraq to ensure a better life for their families back home and had been missing since June 2014.
But ever since Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj informed Parliament on 20 March that all 39 Indians who went missing in the war-torn Iraqi city of Mosul in 2014 were dead, the devastated family members have been waiting for the mortal remains of their loved ones and catch a last glimpse.
Waiting anxiously for the bodies for the last 13 days, the mourning families had thought there wait would finally come to an end on Monday. But their hopes were dashed when the authorities advised them against opening the caskets or having a glimpse of the mortal remains as it could be dangerous for them.
Minister of State for External Affairs General (Retired) V K Singh said as toxins had been used at the site where the dead bodies were found buried, mortal remains might emit gasses which would be dangerous for those opening the caskets and going near it.
Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, however, said it was for the families concerned to decide if they wanted to open the caskets or not.
As per reports, the government will give an ex gratia compensation of Rs 5 lakh to each family and a job to one member from every bereaved family. The current arrangement of Rs 20,000 per month is also likely to continue for the time being.
A Boeing C-17 Globemaster III aircraft of the Indian Air Force (IAF) with Union Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh onboard landed in Amritsar around 2 pm with the mortal remains of 38 Indians who were killed in Iraq.
The plane landed in Amritsar as most of the deceased were from Punjab, officials said.
After handing over the 27 bodies to their families, the remaining from Bihar and West Bengal will be flown in a different aircraft to Patna, followed by Kolkata.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had told Parliament on 20 March that the DNA samples collected from the missing Indians’ relatives matched with 38 bodies, while the identity of the 39th body was yet to be fully confirmed since the DNA sample sent was from someone else in his family as both his parents are dead.