NATIONAL

Waiting with prayers on their lips

Relatives of the three Indians being held hostage in Iraq meeting the External Affairs Minister, Natwar Singh, in New Delhi on Saturday. — Photo: R.V. Moorthy

Relatives of the three Indians being held hostage in Iraq meeting the External Affairs Minister, Natwar Singh, in New Delhi on Saturday. — Photo: R.V. Moorthy  

NEW DELHI, JULY 24. When Rammurti, father of Antaryami, one of the three Indians taken hostage in Iraq, spoke to his son four days ago in Kuwait, little did he realise that over the next 24 hours life would take a miserable turn for his entire family.

And now for the past three days, he has been virtually knocking at every door here pleading for steps to ensure the safe release of his son from his captors' clutches.

Villagers meet Minister

Rammurti, who along with a group of 20-odd people from his native village of Dehlan in Una district in Himachal Pradesh has been camping in the Capital since July 22, a day after he heard the news of the abduction on television, met the External Affairs Minister, Natwar Singh, today and urged him to step up measures for the immediate release of the hostages.

The delegation also included some villagers from Dharampal Kangal, also in Una district, who have come to plead the case of another hostage from their village, Tilak Raj.

"The entire village is in a state of shock and people have been visiting my home and trying to console Antaryami's family. I believe everyone in the country is praying for the safe return of all the Indian hostages who have no political connection and have nothing to do with whatever is happening in Iraq. My son had gone to Iraq in November 2003 in search of greener pastures. And just when he had started doing well, we got this horrifying news," said Mr. Rammurti.

"What has the nine-year-old daughter and the wife of Antaryami or the three kids of Tilak Raj got to do with the Iraq crisis? These innocent hostages are neither linked to any government nor to any political party. They were mere workers earning their livelihood far away from their country. Use of ordinary workers to get their demands fulfilled is totally unjustified on the part the abductors," said the hapless father urging the hostage-takers to immediately release his son and the other hostages.

But what has come as a surprise to the family members of the two hostages — who worked as truck drivers — is that never in their telephonic conversation did the two mention that they had travelled outside Kuwait. "For us it is hard to believe that they were in Iraq when they were taken hostage. Even on July 20, Antaryami never mentioned that he was going to travel to Iraq.

In fact, around 50-odd youths from Una district are working in Kuwait and other neighbouring countries.''

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