Three NRIs abducted by Iraqi militants from Punjab and Himachal Pradesh


Chandigarh, July 22, 2004

Panic gripped several families of Punjab and neighbouring Himachal Pradesh Thursday following news that three Indians abducted by Iraqi militants were from the region.

Many youths from villages and small towns in both states are working in the Middle East, many of them in Kuwait.

The families of these youths are worried that recruiting agents might have forced their kin to work in Iraq, despite their impression that they were in Kuwait.

Of the three Indians taken hostage in Iraq, trucker Sukhdev Singh belongs to Makronakalan village near the Sikh religious shrine of Chamkaur Sahib in Punjab, 50 km from here.

The two other men -- Antaryami, 33, and Tilak Raj, 40 -- are from Una district of Himachal Pradesh.

They had gone to Kuwait in the past year on work permits.

Sukhdev's father Sher Singh said they came to know of his kidnapping from media reports. He belongs to a family of marginal farmers with a land holding of just two acres.

Sukhdev had convinced his family to sell one acre of land last year to pay an immigration agent Rs.100,000 to get a work permit in Kuwait.

His family had no idea before Thursday that Iraqi guerrillas had killed seven hostages in the past month.

Sher Singh said his son had last spoken to him last week. "The call was from Kuwait. I have no idea how he reached Iraq."

Besides his old parents, Sukhdev has his wife and sister living in Makronakalan.

His brother-in-law was also working in Kuwait.

Similar was the story of Antaryami's family from Dehlan village in Himachal Pradesh's Una district.

His father Ram Murthy said his son had spoken with the family Tuesday. "It was a routine call like the one he used to make once or twice a week to know about our well being."