Agartala: Three workers with the National Project Construction Corporation Limited (NPCC), who were abducted 16 days ago while engaged in border fencing work along the Indo-Bangladesh border in the eastern part of Tripura, were released late on Wednesday following payment of ransom, officials said on Thursday.
According to sources, a BSF personnel on duty noticed the missing workers crossing the border through pillar number 2273 at DP Para at around 5:50 pm on Wednesday and escorted them to the nearby Bhagirath Para Border Out Post (BOP). Tripura shares 856-km-long international border with neighbouring Bangladesh, of which about 67 km is unfenced.
A site manager and two other workers engaged in border fencing work were abducted on December 7 by the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT), an extremist militant outfit from a bordering village near Malda Kumar Para. According to sources, construction work was ongoing between border pillar number 2277 and 2278, when the ultras abducted the three workers despite tight security arrangements.
Sources said the three NPCC workers — identified as Subhas Bhowmik from Udaipur in Gomati district, Subal Debnath from Bishalgarh in Sepahijala district and Ganapati Tripura from MK Para — were held hostage in NLFT hideouts at Chittagong Hill Tracts of southern Bangladesh.
The families of the abducted workers claimed that the contractor of the project paid Rs 12 lakh for their safe release after a series of negotiations over the past two weeks. According to sources, the NLFT militants had initially demanded a ransom of Rs 3 crore for their release.
A statement issued by the Tripura police said the NLFT extremists released the kidnapped persons Wednesday evening “due to continuous operations by the local police, security forces and pressure on the over ground workers of NLFT inside the state as well as operations conducted by the Bangladesh security forces in their areas.”
Meanwhile, upon receiving information of their return, Superintendent of Police Kishore Debbarma, the BSF commandant and the sub-divisional police officer (SDPO) rushed to the spot with a huge contingent of security forces to receive the workers.
The workers, who were released at the Raishyabari border after sunset and escorted by the BSF to their camp, were later interrogated by the security and intelligence officials. The trio were returned to their families early on Thursday morning.
Earlier on December 12, Chief Minister Biplab Kumar Deb said his government will not compromise on extremism. He had warned the insurgents of a ‘surgical strike’ over the workers released.
“The Tripura government has taken an uncompromising policy to suppress extremism. We are ready to take all measures. If required, the state government will take the help of the centre,” Deb had said.
The NLFT was banned in 1997 under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and has since been involved in violence while operating from their camps across the international border. They have allegedly been responsible for violent activities, including 317 insurgency-related incidents where 28 security forces and 62 civilians lost their lives between 2005-2015. Peace talks with NLFT were initiated in 2015 and there has been no violence by NLFT since 2016.