Two of the 19 Assam workers rescued from Arunachal Pradesh’s Kurung Kumey district narrated a harrowing tale of oppression, including being sold off by a broker for Rs 20 lakh. 

The two, among the 10 rescued so far, returned to their hometown in Kokrajhar district of Assam on Wednesday.

Majidul Ali and Manowar Hossen were two of the seven people from Bogulaora village in the district who left for Arunachal Pradesh on May 30. Rejaul Karim, a broker who took them to Arunachal, allegedly sold them to contractors in Arunachal for Rs 20 lakh.

The labourers reportedly faced several hardships during their two-month stay in the remotest part of the state, after which they fled their camp at the construction site. After fleeing, they lost track in the mountains, and for the next two weeks, they remained lost in the dense jungles. By the time four were rescued, three had reportedly died of different reasons.

Family members of Abul Hosen, who has reportedly died

Narrating their ordeal, Majidul Ali said, “We were taken to Itanagar from Assam for providing a job. After working there for a few days, we were asked to go to Koloriang, to which we refused. The contractors then snatched our mobile phones and forcibly took us to Koloriang. On reaching Koloriang, we stayed there for two days, after which we were asked to go to Damin.”

“On being asked why they wanted to take us to Damin, we were told that the construction site is there. But when we refused to go to Damin, they threatened us and we had to go there. On reaching Damin, they took us to Huri, which is around 21 km from Damin. We worked in Huri for over a month and on July 1, we asked them to pay our wages, as we wanted to return home. But the contractors went traceless and we were not paid a single penny till July 5,” Ali said.

“Then we went to the in-charge of the construction site and told him that we want to go home for Eid but he said we cannot go as Rejaul, who took Rs 20 lakh against our employment, has been absconding. When we tried to leave for our homes, the contractors threatened us and even fired a few rounds in the air. After they left the construction site, we escaped from our camp the same night,” he added.

“When we were working on the construction, the contractors made a video where we were asked to say our names. They then threatened to chop our heads off if ever we tried to flee. We desperately wanted to return home so we fled from the camp without bothering about the consequences. After walking for about eight to nine days in the mountains, three of us – Kholebuddin, Shamidul, and Abul Hosen – could walk no longer. So we had to leave them behind. The next day, one of us, Forijul Hoque, died of cold. We covered his body with leaves and started walking again,” said Ali.

Mazidul Ali and Manowar Hossen were two of the seven people from Bogulaora village in the district who left for Arunachal Pradesh on May 30.

“After walking for a couple of days, one more of us, Aynul Hoque, fell seriously ill. Leaving some banana stems with him, we started walking again. After a few days, we reached a village where two local villagers took us to a shop. Though they offered us food, we were not in a condition to eat. We told them that we had left behind a few of our friends after which they informed the police. We were later taken to a nearby Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) camp where we were given first aid. We were airlifted to Naharlagun in a chopper the next morning where we were medically treated. During our days in the jungles, we survived only on banana stems and water,” Ali ended in a low voice.

Hundreds of villagers gathered to receive Mazidul and Manowar when they arrived at their native village in Assam on Wednesday. Family and friends of the duo were overjoyed to see their dear ones return home after so much uncertainty.

Meanwhile, a pall of gloom hung over the homes of Aynul Hoque, Abul Hosen, and Forijul Hoque, who have reportedly died. While appealing to both the Assam and Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) governments to retrieve the bodies of the deceased, their family members have demanded the immediate arrest of Rejaul Karim.

The 19 workers from Assam were engaged in road construction for a project allegedly under the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) in the remote Huri area under the Damin subdivision. Of the 19, 10 have been rescued, three of them have reportedly died, while six others are still missing.

Extensive search operations are still underway by the Arunachal Pradesh Police with the help of locals to locate them.

Also read | Arunachal: 10 of 19 ‘BRO workers’ rescued, 9 still missing in jungles


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