Despite pleas, fate of two oil company staffs hangs in balance

Guwahati, Feb 21 (IANS) Despite appeal from different quarters, the fate of the two hostages of a Delhi-based private oil company — who were kidnapped two months ago — is still hanging in balance as even the Assam Police as well as Arunachal Pradesh are clueless over their latest position.

Congress’ deputy leader in the Lok Sabha Gaurav Gogoi on Sunday requested Union Home Minister Amit Shah to take appropriate steps to get the two officials released at the earliest.

“The abduction and actions of the ULFA-I (United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent), are being widely criticised by the people of Assam. Given the sensitive nature of the matter and the potential threat to the lives of the two abductees, I urge you to take the matter into immediate considerations for appropriate action,” Gogoi said in his letter to Shah.

Earlier, Assam’s Finance and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma requested the self-styled commander-in-chief of ULFA-I, Paresh Barua, to “refrain from any action that may shame three crore people of Assam in the eyes of the world”.

“People of Assam had to be shameful earlier when ULFA killed Sanjoy Ghose and detonated a bomb at a school in Dhemaji (in eastern Assam). I appeal to Paresh Baruah not to trigger any more bloodshed. Assamese people felt disgraceful and shocked after those incidents. The two kidnapped people are innocent and ULFA-I must release them and for this, we would be grateful. I am requesting them with folded hands,” the senior BJP leader said while speaking at a television show.

Ghose, a rural development activist, was killed by ULFA in the river island of Majuli on the Brahmaputra river on July 4, 1997.

In 2004, an explosion was triggered by ULFA through a remote control device during the Independence Day celebrations on August 15 at a school in Dhemaji, which killed 18 people, mostly school children.

The anti-talk militant outfit had earlier set February 17 to “take action” if the concerned authorities did not take appropriate steps to secure the release of the oil company officials.

Anti-talk self styled ULFA-I’s supremo while talking to a senior functionary of the Gauhati Press Club on Sunday from an undisclosed location said, “Final ultimatum does not mean death sentence. Discussions are on about the two officials. We have taken in good faith about the appeal from various organisations of the state. We have deferred any action for now.”

The ULFA-I earlier in several statements had threatened action against the two employees of the private oil company, who were abducted from the drilling site in Innao area of Changlang district in Arunachal Pradesh on December 21 last year. Delhi-based Quippo Oil and Gas Infrastructure Ltd’s drilling superintendent Pranab Kumar Gogoi and radio operator Ram Kumar were abducted at gunpoint by ULFA-I, which demanded Rs 20 crore as ransom for their release.

Police officers in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh said that searches for the two captives are on but they are yet to get any clue about the whereabouts of Gogoi and Kumar.

The ULFA-I had earlier, through a media statement, warned that the Chief Ministers of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh would be responsible for any untoward fate of the two.

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