Wednesday, Oct 01, 2014

Telecom staffer freed after 119 days of captivity

Deep (right) with his cousin Arnab after his release. Deep (right) with his cousin Arnab after his release. (Express Archive)
Written by Adam Halliday , Sabyasachi Bandopadhyay | Kolkata | Posted: March 24, 2014 12:45 am | Updated: March 24, 2014 9:48 am

Twenty-five-year-old telecom professional Deep Mandal of West Bengal, who was kidnapped from Mamit area in Mizoram on November 23 last year, was released Sunday afternoon. He was escorted by Mizoram Police that played a crucial role in securing his release.

Mandal and two others — Mizo drivers Sanglianthanga and Lalzamliana — were abducted by National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) cadres with the help of Bru militants near Mizoram’s international border with Bangladesh.

Mandal was on an assignment for Noida-based telecom firm which was working for Airtel to survey possible tower locations in the state’s western region.

After 58 days, the militants freed Sanglianthanga and Lalzamliana but refused to release Mandal  — a native of Indus in Bankura .

“It was not an easy task. Besides the kidnappers’ hostility towards our involvement, Mandal’s ethnicity and the fact that he was a salaried employee made it a difficult operation,” said SP Rodingliana Chawngthu of CID (Special Branch) referring to the NLFT’s history of an armed group opposed to Bengali “settlers” in Tripura.

In January, Additional SP of CID(SB) H L Thangzuala even met a senior militant leader to negotiate Mandal’s release, but with Bangladesh reviving its operation to flush out Northeast militant groups from its territory, the expected release got delayed. It was on March 21 that Mandal’s family received a call from the kidnappers saying they were going to release him soon. A day later, a CID (SB) team reached the jungles of east Bangladesh to bring back Mandal.

“The trauma that I had gone through these days should not happen to anybody,’’ Mandal said over the phone from Aizawl.

On Monday, Mandal, along with his cousin, Arnab Mandal, who is in to Aizawl to receive him, are coming to Kolkata and meet Home Secretary Basudev Banerjee at Nabanna.

“We are going to Dum Dum airport in a bus, from there we will bring him back,’’ Mandal’s uncle Biswajit Kundu told The Indian Express from Bankura.

Initially, the militants reportedly demanded Rs 5 crore from Mandal’s family and company.

Subsequently, they reduced it to Rs 25 lakh. According to Mandal, his captors were always on the move. “Sometimes we walked for five hours, sometimes for 12 hours in the hilly terrains. There were always 14 to 15 people and carried guns, AK-47s and 303s. They beat me twice and threatened to kill me… When they released the two drivers, I thought they were going to kill me,” he said.

“I don’t know whether any money was paid or not (for my release),’’ added Mandal.

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