Seven Indian nationals working in Afghanistan were kidnapped.

 

It is going to be a “Black Diwali” for the family members of the seven Indian nationals who were kidnapped in Afghanistan nearly six months ago and have not been heard of since.

The pain of the relatives of all these people, who were working in Baghlan province of the restive country, as labourers and technicians, has increased even more as, after the initial few weeks, no one from either the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) or any other government department has spoken to them to inform them about the present status of the abductees.

The family members of these people, who are extremely poor and have limited means to even come to Delhi to try to seek the status of those who have been abducted, told The Sunday Guardian that they are absolutely clueless on what to do and were banking on the media to raise the issue with the government.

“When the news first came to us, we met everyone from External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to our local MPs. All of them said that they were looking into it and assured us that the matter would be resolved soon. Six months have passed and nothing has happened,” a relative of one of the abductees told this newspaper.

“We do not know how and where they are, what happened to them or when they would come back. No one from any government department has even bothered to keep us in the loop about what is happening. It is killing us. We cannot go to Delhi to meet the officials,” he bemoaned.

The last official communication the family members received was way back on 15 June when they had come to Delhi and after protesting in front of the MEA, were allowed to meet Swaraj. At the time, they were told that the Taliban, which had kidnapped them, would release them after Ramzan.  “Since no one contacted us after that, we met our local MPs, including Jayant Sinha. We recently also met Chief Minister Raghubar Das, who had, while promising us a compensation of Rs 1 lakh, assured us that he would look into the matter. What do we do now?” another relative asked.

When contacted, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Sinha, who represents Hazaribagh, said that he was following up the matter with the MEA and was in touch with the family members of the abductees. “This matter has been of concern to me since the day I heard of the unfortunate development,” he told this correspondent.

“I was out of the country when the news of this incident reached me. I immediately instructed my office to highlight this matter to MEA. I also sent a letter on 31 May 2018 to the Minister of External Affairs seeking cooperation on this matter. Later, members of my team at Hazaribagh went to meet the family of one of the abductees, Kali Mahto on 4 June.”

“Issues of our fellow citizens getting stuck or being abducted in another country are a cause of immense pain and concern to me personally as their representative and also as a minister of a compassionate government. I am very hopeful that our fellow citizens—Kali Mahto and Varsai Mahto and others who were abducted—will come back home soon,” he added.

The kidnappers had on 7 May abducted these seven persons who all work for KEC International of the RPG group, which is in the business of setting up electric power transmission lines in that trouble-torn country. Of them, four are from Jharkhand, including one from Sinha’s constituency, one from Bihar and two from Kerala.

Among those who have been taken hostage are Mantu Singh, a resident of Cahusa area of Madhepura district in Bihar, Prasadi Mahto, Prakash Mahto, Hulas Mahto, all from Bagodar in Giridih of Jharkhand, and Kali Mahto from Tatijharia, Hazaribagh.

They were abducted from Bagh-e-Shamal village near Pul-e-Khumri city, the capital of Baghlan province, while going to a KEC-owned electricity sub-station.

All the seven men, who are in the age group of 24-46 years, were getting a salary of less than Rs 26,000 per month.

“We are poor people, have no one who can take our pleas to the people in power. Would the response of the government and the leaders been as callous as it is right now had someone from their family been kidnapped?” asked the son of an abductee.

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