ULFA(I) defers decision on fate of 2 abducted oil firm staff

Guwahati, Feb 21 (PTI) The banned ULFA(I) on Sunday said, the outfit has “deferred” the decision to take any step on the fate of two abducted employees of an oil firm and will continue to hold discussions with authorities concerned for a positive outcome.

United Liberation Front of Assam-Independent (ULFA-I) chief Paresh Barua informed general secretary of Gauhati Press Club (GPC) Sanjoy Ray over phone that discussions on the release of the two employees were continuing and “We hope that there will be a positive outcome soon”.

However, Barua said, there has to be a “definite time-frame to resolve the issue and negotiations for their release cannot go on endlessly”.

Two employees of Quippo Oil and Gas Infrastructure Ltd were abducted by the insurgents on December 21 last year from Kumchaikha hydrocarbon drilling site in Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh.

Initially, the ULFA(I) chief had called the GPC president Manoj Kumar Nath asking him to provide a platform to him for clarification of certain facts allegedly ‘misinterpreted in a certain section of the media’ on the outfit’s stand on the fate of the two abducted persons.

Accordingly, mediapersons gathered at the GPC where Barua was expected to brief the media over telephone which was put on amplifiers, but he could not contact the particular number on which he was supposed to brief journalists.

Barua subsequently called another journalist who was present at the GPC, who connected him to the club’s general secretary Sanjoy Ray and he was briefed by the ULFA(I) leader.

According to Ray, the ULFA(I) chief also said that he welcomes and respects the role of the civil society and their constructive suggestions to resolve the issue.

Barua said that a section of the media had misinterpreted the outfit’s earlier statement about “the step” to decide the fate of the two abducted persons.

The two abducted men are Drilling Superintendent Pranab Kumar Gogoi and Radio Operator Ram Kumar. While Gogoi is from Assam’s Sivasagar district, Ram Kumar hails from Bihar.

The outfit had reportedly demanded a ransom of Rs 20 crore for the release of the two employees and had set February 16 as the deadline.

The ULFA(I) in an email on Friday had said that talks with the Quippo authorities held from February 16 to 19 have “failed to reach any favourable conclusion and as such an ultimate step on the duo will be taken next week”.

The email, signed by Rumel Asom of the outfit’s Publicity department, said that it had “banned the company from operating in South East Asia”.

The family members of the employees had recently called upon Barua’s brother who also appealed to the ULFA(I) leader to release the duo.

Following the ULFA(I)’s statement on Friday, there was an appeal from several organisations, intellectuals and even Barua’s former comrade Anup Chetia, who has joined the peace talks, not to harm the two persons.

Assam Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had also appealed to the outfit to release the two men unharmed.