“Declaring anyone dead without proof is a sin and I won’t commit a sin,” Ms Swaraj said in Lok Sabha, responding to allegations that she was “misleading the house” on whether the Indians were alive.
She asserted that it was the government’s duty to keep looking for the Indians, given that so far, “there are no bodies, no bloodstains, no list, no ISIS videos.”
The group of Indian labourers, mostly from Punjab, was taken hostage by ISIS when it overran Iraq’s second largest city Mosul in 2014. The workers were trying to leave Mosul when they were intercepted.
“We can’t even take them from the category of ‘missing’ to ‘believed to be dead’. I will not take this crime on my head,” Ms Swaraj said.
“People who are convinced that they are dead and I am lying, they are free to tell their families that they are dead. But if anyone turns up alive, then it is their responsibility,” she added.
On Monday, Iraq said it was “not 100 per cent sure” whether the Indians, who were kidnapped by ISIS in Mosul three years ago, are alive or dead.
“We don’t know whether they are dead or alive. We are equally concerned. We’re not 100% sure they’re alive or not, we don’t know, we are going to do our best,” Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari told reporters in Delhi.
The government has repeatedly said all efforts are on to find the Indians and without information otherwise, the workers are still considered alive.