Updated: May 23, 2021 3:06:34 am
A month after his abduction, United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I) released ONGC employee Retul Saikia on Saturday.
Saikia was released at Longwa, in Nagaland’s Mon district, near India-Myanmar border, around 7 am Saturday, officials said. He reached Borhalla, his home in Assam’s Jorhat district, at 7.30 pm.
Speaking to the media, Saikia said he was “grateful” to ULFA-I, and was feeling “exhausted after having walked several days” through the jungles to Assam. “I missed my baby a lot,” he said.
The 38-year-old has a four-month-old child.
At home, later, he said, “I am tired but very happy to be back home. I was so worried about being far away from my family.”
Saikia was handed over to a team of Assam Police, Nagaland Police and Assam Rifles. “He reached Sonari police station in Charaideo district around 4.30 pm, where he underwent a medical check up. Immediately after that he went home to be with his family,” SP, Jorhat, Ankur Jain said .
Saikia’s wife and child, along with his brothers and cousins, went to receive him at Sonari police station, about 100 km from their home in Borholla. “We are so relieved…. He has hurt his arm but otherwise he is safe and fit,” his brother Debo Saikia said.
At home, the villagers had gathered to perform the Bihu dance in anticipation of Saikia’s arrival.
Saikia and two other ONGC employees, Mohini Mohan Gogoi and Alakesh Saikia, were abducted by ULFA-I on April 21 from a rig site in Lakuwa field, Charaideo district, while on night duty. Mohini (32) and Alakesh (28) were rescued within 72 hours by state security forces following an encounter with the militants, but Saikia remained in ULFA-I’s custody.
While ULFA-I had initially said Saikia was not in their custody, last week the outfit’s chief, Paresh Barua, said he was with them and would be released in four days. Barua’s statement came soon after Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma’s formal appeal to to release Saikia.
Addressing the media on Saturday night, Saikia said he had “no idea” that he was being released. “I only found out this morning when I was handed over,” he said. About the encounter, following which his colleagues were rescued, Saikia said he had “no idea what was happening”. He said, “There were gunshots from all sides, and someone pulled me away.”
Recounting his conversation with Barua, Saikia said, “He said he had nothing personal against me.”
Following Saikia’s release, Sarma tweeted: “Heartily welcome release of Ritul Saikia, ONGC employee abducted by ULFA, early today! Grateful to Honble UHM @AmitShah for constant guidance. Hope an era of peace & development is firmly established in state with cooperation of one and all. Pray to Almighty for His Blessings.”
After taking office earlier this month, Sarma had appealed to insurgents, including ULFA-I, to leave the path of violence and return to the mainstream. “Murders and kidnappings… they do not solve problems, but complicate matters,” he had said.
Earlier, in December 2020, two employees of Quippo Oil and Gas Infrastructure Limited were kidnapped by ULFA-I and the NSCN from a drilling site in Arunachal Pradesh’s Changlang district, and were later rescued.
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