No news yet, but families of missing Indians wait hopefully
Families of the Indian engineers kidnapped in Afghanistan last month await news of their kin with bated breath. "It's like clinging to hope," said Doman Singh of Bihar. Doman's brother Mantu was one of the seven abducted Indians, all employees of Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), who were attacked in Baghlan. Though India has assured it is regularly following up, there's been no breakthrough.
The Afghan driver of the Indian engineers was kidnapped too
The Indians and their Afghan driver were kidnapped when they were on their way to a government-run power plant in a minibus on May 6. Though no group claimed responsibility, reports suggested Taliban may be behind the abduction. Kidnapping for ransoms is quite common in Afghanistan. The tremendous rise in poverty and unemployment has driven many locals to engage in extortion and related activities.
For families, it's more than the loss of a loved-one
For Doman and others like him, this has meant more than the loss of a close one. "We are poor people. My brother (Mantu) has a wife and two children (aged 15 and 13). This job was everything for them," he told HT over phone from Laua Lagan village in Chausa block. "(We are) struggling to ensure that the hope stays alive every day."
A similar wait by 39 families didn't end well
A similar situation for families of 39 Indians kidnapped in Iraq in 2014 lasted nearly four years, who found out in March'18 that they had been killed right after the abduction. After facing flak for keeping the families waiting that long, Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj had said in July'16 that she won't "commit the sin" of declaring a living person dead without "concrete evidence."
UN calls for "speedy release," Congress urges help for families
This time, the opposition has kept up pressure on the government to "redouble the efforts." The UN has also called for their "speedy and safe release." However, spokesman for the UN Secretary-General Stephane Dujarric said the UN Mission in Afghanistan has "not seen any particular information" on the case. Meanwhile, Bihar Congress has urged the state government to help Mantu's family.
Indian officials in regular touch with Afghan counterparts
At the end of last month, Afghan National Security Advisor Haneef Atmar assured a delegation from New Delhi that the country is working hard to get back the Indians safely. Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj has also spoken to her counterpart Salahuddin Rabbani, while "Indian ambassador in Kabul Vinay Kumar is regularly following it up with the authorities," confirmed an Indian official.
Amid crisis, authorities lay hope on Afghanistan's local tribal elders
Officials continue to place hope on local tribal elders in Afghanistan to help them secure the Indians' release. It was due to their mediation with Taliban terrorists that 12 Iranian and Afghan engineers kidnapped in 2011 were safely freed. Baghlan Governor Abdulhai Nemati has said they have already roped in some tribal elders to help in the search for these Indians.