More than a month after two employees of a private oil company were abducted by suspected militants of the banned ULFA(I) and NSCN, an investigator involved in the probe says a solution is expected shortly.
Oil company officials, meanwhile, say they continue to reach out to authorities for help as abductors have persisted with “unreasonable” ransom demands.
“We are working towards a solution shortly,” said the Arunachal Pradesh Police official who is part of the massive multi-agency effort that is underway to trace the two abducted employees.
“They were sighted close to the Indo-Myanmar border in Namdapha National Park a couple of days back,” the official told EastMojo, adding that operations continue in areas that are likely to be their escape routes.
“Difficult terrain and no formal means of communication have made the operation difficult,” the investigator said.
PK Gogoi and Ram Kumar, employees of Quippo Oil and Gas Infrastructure Ltd, were abducted from Innao in remote Changlang district on December 21 by a group of about 16 armed men dressed in army fatigues and carrying assault rifles.
The investigator said it’s likely that the abductors were a mix of ULFA(I) and NSCN militants. “We are still not sure which faction it is,” the investigator said, adding it could be anyone including breakaway group of the NSCN (I-M).
According to a senior executive of the oil company, the incident happened at about 6.40 pm when the group arrived at the Oil India installation where Quippo operates the rig, asking for one of their employees. “Since he was not present, they decided to take PK Gogoi and Ram Kumar with them,” the oil company executive said.
While the militants were still at the site, one of the employees managed to sneak out and make a phone call to the company’s senior management, apprising them of the unfolding developments. “Within 15 minutes, we managed to inform the authorities. But by the time even the local representatives arrived at the remote site, it was too late,” the company executive said.
Next morning onwards, the oil company executives started getting ransom calls.
“They have been reaching out to us quite regularly, almost every second-third day,” said Soumya Srikanth, the chief financial officer of the oil company.
The phone calls are from phone numbers registered in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bolivia, Liberia and even India, suggesting that the callers are using technology to hide their whereabouts. The callers on the line have identified themselves mostly as Arunoday Dahotia and a few times as Paresh Baruah, top fugitive militant of the ULFA(I).
“When we try to call the numbers, it does not connect,” Srikanth said.
Paresh Baruah, in an interview to a regional news channel earlier, had threatened that the outfit could harm Ram Kumar if their demands were not heeded to even as he promised that Gogoi, an Assamese, would not be touched.
Kumar had followed the abductors when they were taking Gogoi with them.
“Kumar would not have been kidnapped had he not followed them,” the oil company executive said.
Kumar and Gogoi appeared in short video appeals recently for the first time after they were abducted.
Srikanth said the oil company is trying to engage with the abductors to secure their release.
“We need to keep them engaged because it’s about life of our people. We have been fair but assertive. We have told them their demands are unfair and our small company doesn’t have that kind of money,” Srikanth said.
The oil company has also written to top authorities. “We have written to the PMO, the Ministry of External Affairs, the offices of the chief minister of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh and Bihar among others. We understand that they are working to help in the situation,” Srikanth said.