Distraught families ignore advisory, take one last look at loved ones

As mortal remains of 38 Indian men killed in Iraq reached Amritsar on Monday afternoon, many grieving families overlooked an earlier advisory not to open the coffins as the bodies would have rot due to prolonged decay.

But for the families in tears, the last journey of their loved ones before being consigned to flames would not have been complete without a last look inside the casket. One after the other, hearse vans and ambulances drove out to various destinations in the state, each with a number and name of the dead pasted on the coffin kept inside.

Families said local officials had advised them not to open the casket since the remains had been exhumed from a mass grave in Iraq after a long time and might emit toxic gases. Many of the families in Punjab cremated the dead on arrival.

A special aircraft of the Indian Air Force with bodies of 38 Indians, 27 of them from Punjab, who had been missing from the city of Mosul in Iraq since June 2014, reached Amritsar this afternoon along with union minister of state for external affairs, Gen V K Singh (retd) and others.

Families broke out into tears on seeing the coffins. The last time they saw their loved one was over four years ago. All these years, they lived with the hope of see their dear ones again. The Centre too cemented their hopes, citing 'credible' sources to claim they were alive in Iraq. But what returned on Monday were their mortal remains.

Govt job, ex-gratia

Families have insisted on credible proof of death and the government provided the report of the DNA sampling to put to rest all apprehensions. Majority of those from Punjab killed in Iraq were from humble origins and had gone abroad taking loan. Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu on Monday announced a government job for one member of each of the bereaved families, besides Rs 5 lakh in cash as ex-gratia. The ongoing pension of Rs 20,000 a month for each family will also continue.

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