January 31, 2021 3:16:18 am
Over a month after they were kidnapped by militants of the ULFA-I and the NSCN, oil drilling company employees Ram Kumar, whose five-year-old son suffers from blood cancer, and PK Gogoi, whose 13-year-old daughter is passing sleepless nights worrying for her father, remain captive.
The insurgents have now issued an ultimatum amidst rescue operations by security forces.
In the evening hours of December 21, Gogoi, a drilling superintendent at the Quippo Oil and Gas Infrastructure Limited, and Kumar, a radio operator at the company, were kidnapped by around a dozen armed militants from a drilling site near Innao in Changlang district. Quippo is an asset and service provider company that provides onshore drilling services.
Gogoi belongs to Sivasagar district in Assam, while Kumar is from Bihar’s Khagaria district.
Ramkumar Diwakar, the father-in-law of Kumar, from Samastipur in Bihar, told The Indian Express the family was deeply worried. “My 5-year-old grandchild Aditya Raj — Ram Kumar’s son — suffers from blood cancer.
He is being treated at AIIMS Patna for the last ten months. Ram Kumar has another daughter who is only seven. How can the family survive if he is killed by the militants? Please understand our situation.”
Gogoi’s wife Namita broke down over the phone. She told The Indian Express, “My only prayer is that the company should talk to the abductors and ensure that my husband is released immediately. It has been over a month since we have not seen him…”
Gogoi has two children, a 20-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter. “The family is in disarray. The children are very very worried. Please let my husband return to us,” Namita said.
In a January 27 statement, the banned militant outfit United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent) said, “If the company does not take appropriate steps to secure the release of the duo by February 16, then on February 17 we will take action on their Indian employee Ram Kumar.”
The ULFA-I statement signed by the outfit’s publicity cell member Rumel Asom said the deadline will not be extended under any circumstance. Moreover, it threatened that if the company doesn’t meet the outfit’s demands, it will not be allowed to operate in “Assam and South East Asia”.
In another strongly worded statement issued on Saturday, the ULFA-I said Quippo and the governments of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh were using “delaying tactics” in the negotiations even as the security forces, police and intelligence agencies were conducting their operations in the hope of rescuing the duo.
The statement said they were certain that instead of rescuing the two men alive, the forces will kill them and put the blame on the ULFA-I. It said it was “certain” that as the security operations by government forces are ongoing, something “unfortunate” could happen to the two men.
If that happens, the statement said, the entire responsibility for that will have to be borne by the CMs of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh and the government forces.
It is learnt from sources in the know that the initial ransom demand by the abductors was that of Rs 20 crore, but it has come down to half the amount following negotiations.
Changlang SP, Mihin Gambo, told The Indian Express, “Our rescue operation is ongoing.”
Another Arunachal Pradesh government official, who did not wish to be named, said extensive search operations were carried out jointly by the Arunachal Pradesh police, Indian Army and Assam Rifles.
The search is ongoing in areas of the Namdapha National Park and other densely forested areas of Namsai district. “There has been no success as of now,” the official said.
Ram Kumar’s father-in-law Diwarkar said, “What have we done to the ULFA that they have taken our son? Please help us.” “Cancer treatment is expensive. Moreover, there is the small daughter. Please consider their situation. My appeal to the government of Arunachal Pradesh and the Central government, please ensure his release.”
Earlier this month, the abductors released a video featuring Gogoi and Kumar. In the video, both the men appealed to Quippo and their respective state governments to work to secure their release.
A Quippo spokesperson told The Indian Express, “We are in continuous discussions with the extremist outfit. Also, we are talking daily to multiple government agencies to ensure the rescue of our employees. We are also in touch with the families of both the men and supporting them emotionally and financially.”
“The ransom demand is illogical and unreasonable — but we do realise that the safety of our employees is of utmost importance and hence we are trying our best,” said the spokesperson. He said the company will ensure that Kumar’s son’s treatment does not face any financial constraints.
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