CM appeals for release of employees of oil exploration firm; activists slam ULFA for tarnishing Assam’s image

The threat to take action against two of its hostages appears to have boomeranged on the United Liberation Front of Asom (Independent).

An anti-ULFA (I) mood has been building up in Assam ever since February 19, when the outfit issued a statement saying “final action” would be taken against two employees of a Delhi-based oil exploration firm its cadres had abducted from a drilling site in Arunachal Pradesh’s Changlang district on December 21, 2020.

The ULFA-I cited failure of talks with the company, Quippo Oil and Gas Infrastructure Limited, for ransom and increased activities of the security forces as the reasons behind the “final action” to be taken in a phased manner within a week. The outfit’s deadline for striking a deal for the release of the two employees expired on February 17.

The abducted employees are Pranab Kumar Gogoi, a drilling superintendent from Assam, and Ram Kumar, a radio operator from Bihar. The outfit had earlier threatened to kill Mr. Kumar for being a representative of “colonial India” while promising to let Mr. Gogoi go unharmed.

“An ideology had sired the ULFA, but it has fallen from grace because of some inhuman and unjustified decisions. Condemnation is the only word I have for them,” academician Hiren Gohain said.

“This is not a case of keeping two people hostages. The outfit has kept the entire State and the Assamese people hostages with this deplorable act, and [it is] not expected from Paresh Baruah,” said writer-scientist Lakshmi Nandan Bora, the former president of the prestigious Assam Sahitya Sabha.

Paresh Baruah, the fugitive military chief of ULFA-I, justified the “final action”’ primarily to “teach occupational India a lesson” for exploiting “independent Assam’s” natural resources.

Anup Chetia, general secretary of the pro-talks ULFA, appealed to Baruah to not harm the two men and continue discussion for a way out. Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal also asked the ULFA-I to release the hostages in order not to tarnish the State’s image.

Calling up the Guwahati Press Club from an undisclosed location on Sunday evening, Baruah said the ULFA (I) has extended the deadline for the safe release of the two Quippo employees.

“We will discuss with NSCN (Khaplang faction of National Socialist Council of Nagaland) and negotiate with Quippo,” he said, adding that “dire consequences” may not mean death.

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