Salesian’s “torture” video puts pressure on India

July 21, 2016 by  
Filed under newsletter-india

New Delhi, July 20, 2016: A video allegedly showing torture of Fr Tom Uzhunnalil has put pressure on the Indian government to renew efforts to free the Salesian priest abducted by Islamic militants.

India’s External Affairs Minister told parliament on July 20 that the government is verifying the authenticity of the video that appeared in social media a day earlier.

She also told the Lok Sabha (people’s council), the lower house of parliament, that the government is making an all out effort to secure the 57-year-old priest.

Fr Uzhunnalil was taken into custody by the Islamic militants on March 4 from a Missionaries of Charity center in Yemen.

“The matter has been taken up with whichever country we thought could help us, not just at my level but at the level of the Prime Minister too,” Swaraj said when some members brought the house’s attention to a photograph and a video that first surfaced in Fr Uzhunnalil’s Facebook account.

The disturbing video shows a blindfolded man being assaulted by some others. The photograph shows a fairly weak, white bearded man holding his hands crossing his heart.

Meanwhile Fr Uzhunnalil’s relatives in Kerala, southern India, told media persons that they believed the photograph resembled the priest. They said although they are sad to see his fate, they felt relieved to know that he is still alive.

The video and the photograph have put the government under more pressure to expedite efforts to free the priest, reports India Today.

The minister added that it was difficult to deal with cases where people are held hostage in a hostile territory with little information about their current whereabouts. There is no single entity one can approach and settle the matter.

She cited the example of Jesuit Father Alexis Premkumar Antonysamy, who was released from captivity eight months after he was abducted by the Taliban at Herat in Afghanistan in June 2, 2014. He was released on February 22, 2015, after relented efforts of the Indian government.

The minister said similar efforts are being made in Father Uzhunnalil’s case as well.

A scare was triggered in March end when reports started doing the rounds that Father Uzhunnalil would be crucified on Good Friday by the ISIS. These reports were denied by Church authorities as well as the Indian government.

What has come as a hindrance in the matter is the fact that India had to relocate its embassy in Sanaa, Yemen in April 2015 to Djibouti after ISIS took control of a major part of Yemen and it spiraled into turmoil.

Suspected ISIS militants abducted Father Uzhunnalil after they barged into an old age home in Aden and killed 16 people, including four members of the Missionaries of Charity congregation. The priest was serving as chaplain of the home.

India had made repeated requests to Indians to leave conflict-ridden Yemen. It had carried out an extensive evacuation process Operation ‘Raahat’ in which 6,688 people were evacuated from Yemen, including 4,741 Indians and 1,947 foreign nationals by air and sea routes last year.

Father Tom is believed to have stayed back saying he is committed to carry out his duty to God.

– matters india

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