Failure, made worse by insensitivity

Failure, made worse by insensitivity

Failure, made worse by insensitivity

The NDA government's handling of the situation arising from the kidnapping of 40 Indian workers by the Islamic State (IS) militants in 2014, subsequently of information about them and finally the announcement of their fate raises troubling questions about its conduct. The death of all the workers has now been confirmed by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, after dillydallying on the matter for about four years. The IS kidnapped 40 construction workers in Mosul in Iraq in June 2014. One of them, Harjit Masih, subsequently escaped by pretending to be a Bangladeshi Muslim. There was a war situation in Mosul and the last message from the workers to their families was in mid-June that year. The government could not do anything to help them. Its inability to help its own citizens in deep distress is disappointing. While the government has a good record of evacuating thousands of Indian nationals in the recent past from places like Afghanistan, Yemen and even Iraq, the failure in Mosul is glaring.  

The government's handling of information and its response to the enquiries of the families of the kidnapped persons was worse. In the first place, it is strange that a modern state with all its sources and resources could not properly investigate the matter and get the correct information for so long. All these years, the government kept assuring the families that the workers were safe. Public statements were also made to that effect. The argument that the government could not declare the workers dead without proof is disingenuous. That is no reason for asserting many times that they were alive. The government could have said that it had no definite information about them but was investigating the matter and trying to locate them. Instead, it misrepresented the situation and misled the families and the nation over it. When Masih said that the workers had been killed, his account was dubbed a "made up" story. Worse, he was kept in detention and incommunicado. Media reports, some of which were based on investigation and reliable information, too, were dismissed as wrong.  

Now that the deaths have been confirmed after finding the bodies in a mass grave, the government has compounded its falsehood with insensitivity. Sushma Swaraj made the announcement of the death of the workers in parliament before conveying the information to the bereaved families, who learnt about it from the media. She again hid behind a technicality that parliament had to be told first about it, ignoring the human dimension involved. It was perhaps this same lack of human concern due to which the government suppressed the truth for nearly four years.

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