After keeping him hostage for over 10 weeks, the outlawed Ulfa has killed Phool Chand Ram. The body of the Ghaziabad-based executive director of the FCI’s Northeast operations was found in a western Assam village early on Saturday morning.
According to Baksa district police chief Kankan Jyoti Saikia, farmers of Paschim Anandapathar village (under Barama police station) discovered a body half-buried in a paddy field around 7:30 am. Ram’s adopted daughter Junu Murmu, who hails from Baganpara village in the district, later identified his body. She, however, found the hair too long to be Ram’s.
The body bore no injury marks, but police said the death could have been caused by strangulation. They inferred it from a ‘gamocha’—towel-cloth—wrapped around the neck. Another gamocha was wrapped around the waist while a light-colour shirt covered the torso. The body is being kept in the Nalbari Civil Hospital, where Ram’s family members are expected to cross-verify on Sunday.
“Preliminary inputs indicate it is Ram’s body, but we have also asked his family members, FCI officials and Ram’s driver Rabiram Basumatary to identify,” DIG (Central Western Range) GP Singh told Hindustan Times. “The body was found in the area where we had stepped up operations during the past 10 days resulting in the arrest of five Ulfa militants on Friday.”
Basumatary was abducted along with Ram on April 17 from near the latter’s rented apartment. The abductors released him two days later while demanding a ransom of Rs 21 crore for Ram’s release.
Though Ram’s body appeared “somewhat fresh”, senior police officials said he was killed a couple of days back. “But ULFA activists nevertheless called up Ram’s family members and demanded the ransom for his release,” said a senior police officer.
This, he said, was reminiscent of the Sanjoy Ghosh episode in 1997. Social work Ghosh was killed the day he was abducted on July 4 that year from Majuli island, but ULFA commander-in-chief Paresh Barua had kept him “alive” in the outfit’s interest.