Congress MP Urges Home Minister to Ensure Safe Return of Workers Abducted by ULFA-I

Guwahati: Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi Sunday urged Union home minister Amit Shah to take action for safe release of the two oil sector staff from the clutches of United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent or ULFA(I), even as the banned militant outfit said it has “deferred” decision to take any step on the abducted employees and will continue to hold talks with the authorities for a positive outcome.

Two employees of Quippo Oil and Gas Infrastructure Ltd were abducted by the insurgents of ULFA(I) on December 21, 2020 last year from Kumchaikha hydrocarbon drilling site in Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh.

The outfit had reportedly demanded a ransom of Rs 20 crore for the release of the two employees and had set February 16, 2021 as the deadline which was later extended, Gogoi mentioned in the letter. The MP, however, did not mention the extended date.

Recently, the ULFA(I) has threatened to take an “ultimate step” against the two persons, the MP said in his letter. The ULFA(I) in an email to PTI had said that talks with the Quippo authorities held from February 16 to 19, 2021 have “failed to reach any favourable conclusion and an ultimate step on the two will be taken next week”.

United Liberation Front of Assam-Independent (ULFA-I) chief Paresh Barua Sunday informed general secretary of Gauhati Press Club (GPC) Sanjoy Ray over the phone that discussions on the release of the two employees were continuing and “we hope that there will be a positive outcome soon”. However, Barua said, there has to be a “definite time frame to resolve the issue and negotiations for their release cannot go on endlessly”.

Initially, the ULFA(I) chief had called the GPC president Manoj Kumar Nath asking him to provide a platform to him for clarification of certain facts allegedly ‘misinterpreted in a certain section of the media’ on the outfit’s stand on the fate of the two abducted persons. Accordingly, media persons gathered at the GPC, where Barua was expected to brief the media over telephone which was put on amplifiers, but he could not contact the particular number on which he was supposed to brief journalists.

Barua subsequently called another journalist who was present at the GPC, who connected him to the club’s general secretary Sanjoy Ray, and he was briefed by the ULFA(I) leader. According to Ray, the ULFA(I) chief also said that he welcomes and respects the role of civil society and their constructive suggestions to resolve the issue.

Barua said that a section of the media had misinterpreted the outfit’s earlier statement about “the step” to decide the fate of the two abducted persons.

Gaurav Gogoi in his missive to the Union home minister said, “Given the sensitive nature of the matter and the potential threat to the lives of the two persons, I urge you to take the matter into immediate consideration for appropriate action. The government should ensure safe return of the two employees.”

Senior minister of Assam Himanta Biswa Sarma had urged ULFA(I)’s commander-in-chief Paresh Barua “with folded hands” to release the two men unharmed.

The two abducted men are drilling superintendent Pranab Kumar Gogoi and radio operator Ram Kumar. While Gogoi is from Assam’s Sivasagar district, Ram Kumar hails from Bihar.