Lives of kidnapped oil company staff at stake as deadline nears end

The deadline set by terror outfit ULFA-I for the two hostages of a Delhi based private oil company — who were kidnapped in December last year — would expire on Wednesday even as the police remained clueless over the fate of the duo.

Delhi-based Quippo Oil and Gas Infrastructure Ltd’s drilling superintendent Pranab Kumar Gogoi and radio operator Ram Kumar were abducted at gunpoint by militants of the United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I) from the drilling site in Innao area in Changlang district in Arunachal Pradesh on December 21 last year.

In a statement issued last month, ULFA-I had said that it has set February 17 as the deadline to decide the fate of the two employees, asking the authorities to meet their demands before that.

Though the statement did not specify the demands, Arunachal Pradesh police chief R.P. Upadhyaya had told IANS that the militants were demanding Rs 20 crore to release the kidnapped duo.

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

The distressed family members of Gogoi through Guwahati-based media and television channels have repeatedly appealed to the outlawed outfit’s chief Paresh Barua to release him.

“I request Paresh Barua to free my husband or kill us. Our parents are ill and the children are not eating food and not even going to school since the abduction. I have appealed to the Assam government too to take proper steps for the release of my husband,” Gogoi’s wife said.

Gogoi’s mother, in a similar appeal through a television channel, said: “I appeal to the ULFA chief to release our only son. He is the only earning member in our family. I also request the Assam government to facilitate the release of our son at the earliest.”

The hapless family members of Gogoi and Kumar also met the elder brother of ULFA-I supremo, urging him to somehow contact Barua to immediately release the two captives.

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.

“Instead of trying to get the two hostages released, the security forces, the central government’s intelligence agencies and others are continuing their operations. In such a situation, if the two kidnapped officials die, the authorities would tactfully put the onus on the ULFA-I,” the statement had said.

In a video reportedly released by the ULFA-I, Gogoi, a resident of Assam’s Sivasagar district, and Kumar, who hails from Bihar’s Khagaria district, could be heard saying that they are now in the captivity of ULFA-I and urged Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to get them released.