After more than three months, separatist group United Liberation Front of Asom -Independent [ULFA(I)] has released one of the two officials of Quippo Oil and Gas Infrastructure Limited. The banned outfit released Pranab Kumar Gogoi, an employee of the Delhi based private petrochemical company.
Gogoi and another Quippo employee Ram Kumar were abducted by ULFA(I) with the assistance of the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) on December 21 last year from the company’s Kumchaikha hydrocarbon drilling site in Arunachal Pradesh’s Changlang district, and had demanded ransom against their release. Pranab Kumar Gogoi is drilling superintendent and he is from Sivasagar district in Assam, while Ram Kumar is a radio operator and is from Bihar.
According to reports, Gogoi was released near Longvi village of Arunachal Pradesh’s Changlang district at about 12:30 pm on Saturday. Superintendent of Changlang Police Mihin Gambo confirmed that Gogoi has been released and said, “A team of Arunachal police, which had gone deep inside the jungles, has rescued Pranab Kumar Gogoi. We are interrogating him.”
Gogoi had crossed the Indo-Myanmar border on foot, where a border patrol party of Indian Riffles intercepted him. They handed over him to Arunachal Pradesh. “Individual was identified as Pranab Kumar Gogoi, an employee of Quippo Oil and Gas Infra Ltd, who was earlier kidnapped from Inau, Arunachal Pradesh on Dec 21, 20, by ULFA(I). The individual has been handed over to Arunachal Pradesh Police at Longvi, Arunachal Pradesh,” a statement issued by the Assam Rifles said.
The other abductee Ram Kumar is also expected to be released soon, as the outfit had announced that both will be released soon. It is not known if any ransom money was paid to secure the release.
After kidnapping the duo from the drilling site near Arunachal border, ULFA(I) had reportedly demanded a ransom of ₹20 crore. In January this year, a video was released by the outfit where the abducted employees of the company had appealed to their employer and the state governments of Assam and Bihar to secure their release. “Because of the differences with our company, ULFA(I) and NSCN have kept us here for a month. Even after a month, the company has not taken any steps to secure my release. So, I request the company to talk to the two organisations for my release,” they had said in the video.
ULFA(I) Commander in chief Paresh Baruah had said the abducted persons will be harmed if the farm does not pay the outfit its “due share”, as the company is exploiting natural resources in the North Eastern region including Assam. He had also warned that Gogoi and Kumar will be victims if the security forces try any attempt to rescue them, and the company will be responsible for consequences.
The outfit had also ‘banned’ Quippo in the ‘entire south Asia region’, and demanded that the company stop its operations in the region. They had also asked the employs to cease work and pressurise the Oil India Corporation authorities for their alternate employment. ULFA(I) had warned that if the workers of the company continue their operations, they themselves, Quippo, Oil India Limited, Assam and Arunachal government will be responsible for the consequences.
Initially the outfit had taken a very hard stand on the issue, and threatened on February 19 that the two abducted persons will be given ‘ultimate punishment’, indicating they will execute them. This ultimatum had come after no solution was arrived at in the negations by 16th February 16th, the deadline issued by the outfit earlier.
However, the outfit had a change of heart after that, and on 21st February Baruah had told a reporter over phone that he has halted his plan to grant ‘ultimate punishment’ to the hostages. He had also said that a final decision will be taken on the Quippo employees after discussion with NSCN. Later in the first week of March, ULFA(I) had announced that they released the Quippo employees ‘very soon’.