Chandigarh: Standing a few feet from the Mosul hostages’ coffins, junior foreign minister V.K. Singh on Monday scoffed at their families’ demand for compensation and jobs saying the matter wasn’t about “the distribution of biscuits”.
“This is not a game of football,” the former army chief known for his controversial remarks added, addressing a news conference on the tarmac of Amritsar airport.
Singh had just arrived from Iraq with the coffins of 38 of the 39 Indians killed in Mosul. As the caskets were being unloaded, reporters had asked him about the demands from the bereaved families, held at bay outside the terminal.
” Yeh biscuit baantne wala kaam nahin hai, yeh admiyon ki zindagi ka sawal hai, aa gayi baat samajh mein (This is about human lives, not the distribution of biscuits, understand)?” Singh shot back.
“How can I make an announcement now? I haven’t a magic box in my pocket.”
He added that most of the victims had gone to Iraq illegally with the help of touts, and advised the families to focus on the last rites rather than “get involved in unnecessary politics”.
Singh has in the past been accused of insensitivity in the context of human tragedy. After two Dalit children were burnt alive in Haryana in 2015, he had dismissed criticism of the government, saying: “If someone throws stones at a dog, the government is not responsible.”
The same year, criticised for suggesting that visiting the Pakistani High Commission was more “exciting” than evacuating people from war-torn Yemen, he had called the media “presstitutes”.
The hostages’ families had already accused the government of insensitivity, alleging foreign minister Sushma Swaraj had needlessly kept their hopes up since the 2014 abductions by suggesting without evidence that their loved ones were alive.
On Monday, they left with the coffins without reacting to Singh’s comments, but were unhappy at instructions not to open the caskets.
Singh told reporters: “Toxins had been used at the site where the bodies were buried. The remains might emit gases that can be dangerous.”
He said: “Both the state and the Centre have sensitive governments. The external affairs ministry had asked the families for details of their members who can be given jobs, etc. We will review.”
Singh later left for Patna and Calcutta to hand over the remains of seven victims from Bihar and Bengal. The bodies of the 31 from Punjab and Himachal were handed over at Amritsar. One unidentified body is still in Iraq and might belong to the 39th victim, who was from Bihar.
Courtesy: The Telegraph