External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday said that she had no evidence to prove that the 39 Indians, who went missing in Mosul in Iraq, are dead or alive. She added that she would not declare anyone dead or close the "file" without proof of the same.
In her speech in Lok Sabha, Swaraj said: "What happens when I declare someone dead and tomorrow they come and stand in front of me? I cannot take that burden... Declaring anyone dead without proof is a sin. I won't commit that sin."
She added: "Anyone who feels convinced that the missing Indians are dead can go ahead and tell the families of the construction workers. But if tomorrow we discover that the person is alive, then only the person who talked to the family is responsible for it."
Swaraj further added that "if people who are convinced that I'm lying, they can go and tell their family members. We have never said that the missing Indians are currently in Mosul jail. As per the last Intelligence report they were housed in that jail in the beginning of 2016."
'No contact with missing Indians so far'
Pointing out that the Iraqi government has not officially declared the missing Indians dead, Swaraj said: "There has been no contact with those missing so far. We have one person saying that the missing Indians have been killed, while six other sources say that they are not dead."
Adding that the ministry does not have any proof of their survival, Swaraj said that they had not received "any corpses, blood trail or any list published by the Islamic State group either which could have confirmed that they are dead."
Swaraj also said that she had no reason to believe the claims made by Harjit Masih, who escaped from the clutches of the Isis in 2014. "Why should I believe Harjit Masih's claims that the 39 Indians are dead? It is a crime to do this without proper proof," she said.
Masih had claimed that all the 39 Indians who were taken hostage on June 11, 2014, in Mosul, had been killed.
'Government doing everything possible'
On allegations that the government was not doing anything to locate the missing Indians, Swaraj said:
"As soon as the Iraqi prime minister declared Mosul free from Isis on July 9, I called up (Minister of State) General VK Singh, who was in Indore at that time. I asked him to immediately return to Delhi as he had to take a flight to Mosul that night itself. He departed for Mosul from Delhi and stayed there for four days."
Based on the information provided by Singh, the government had said on July 16 that the missing Indians may have been lodged in a jail in northwest Mosul.
'Have never misled House'
The external affairs minister also denied the allegations made by the Opposition that she was misleading the House saying: "I have never misled. I want to ask the opposition what benefit will I get by misleading. What benefit will my government get by misleading the people on the issue?... I will inform the House if I get any concrete evidence."
Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan then said that no question would be taken on the statement given by Swaraj.
There are 22 Punjabis among the 39 Indians who went missing in Mosul. All of them were construction workers.