The relatives of the seven Indian nationals, who were abducted in Baghlan province of Afghanistan on 7 May, are worried about the well-being of the abducted as Government of India has not shared any details with them since 15 June when they met Minister of External Affairs (MEA) Sushma Swaraj.
“We have not heard anything after the 15 June meeting where we were told that our family members were abducted due to a rivalry between two warring factions and that they would be set free after Ramzan. The MEA officials told us that those who had abducted them did not want to talk with the government now, but would do so after some time,” a relative of one of the abductees said.
“However, it is nearly one month now, and nothing has happened. We are extremely poor and we cannot go to Delhi again and again,” the relative said, requesting anonymity.
The relatives spoke to The Sunday Guardian only after a lot of persuasion because, according to them, the MEA officials told them not to interact with the media as it would be “dangerous for those who have been kidnapped”.
“We are very scared as we all remember what happened to the 39 Indians who were killed in Iraq. We don’t know what to do. They were working for KEC for more than two years now,” a relative of another abductee said.
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 Union Minister Jayant Sinha’s constituency of Hazaribagh, 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.
Working on high power electric transmission lines is considered to be a very high risk job and, in most places, Indian nationals are employed because of cheap labour that the contracting companies get from India, due to which they are able to maximise their revenue and profits. 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.
Initial media reports have claimed that the Taliban had abducted the seven Indians. However, Zabihullah Mujahid, the spokesperson of Afghan Taliban, told The Sunday Guardian that they had nothing to do with the kidnappings.
Afghanistan is witnessing multiple groups fighting among themselves for regional supremacy. These include battles between the Taliban and Deash (ISIS). Multiple warlords too act as mercenaries and work for Pakistan’s ISI.
Officials in the Indian security establishment say that it was quite possible that these seven Indians were kidnapped on the orders of the ISI to stop Indians from working in Afghanistan.
Former two-time Bagodar MLA, Vinod Singh, who is in touch with the family members of the abductees since three of them belong to his erstwhile constituency, said that they were forced to protest in front of the MEA in New Delhi.
“On 5 June, we met the Giridih Divisional Commissioner but received no concrete response. Even Raghubar Das-ji (Jharkhand Chief Minister) was unable to help. After that, the family members went to Delhi and protested outside the MEA office, following which Sushma Swaraj-ji met them. However, no official statement was released regarding this,” Singh said.