ULFA-I to release abducted ONGC employee after Himanta Biswa Sarma’s appeal
Guwahati: Banned United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I) on Thursday said it will release Ritul Saikia, an employee of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) abducted from Assam last month, within the next four days.
The outfit’s move came minutes after Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma made an appeal at a Press conference to ULFA-I chief Paresh Baruah. “Saikia’s parents, his wife and infant son are very distressed since his abduction. As an Assamese, it is my humble request to Paresh Baruah to release him at the earliest,” Sarma said.
ULFA-I chief responded minutes later.
“I heard the CM’s responsible appeal on TV and in response, ULFA-I assured the release of Saikia in a matter of days. It should take 3-4 days for him to be reunited with his family,” Baruah told NEWSLIVE, an Assamese news channel, over phone from an undisclosed location.
Saikia, a junior engineer assistant, was abducted along with two colleagues, Mohini Mohan Gogoi (junior engineer assistant) and Alakesh Saikia (junior technician), from ONGC’s workover rig site in Sivasagar district of Assam on April 21.
Alakesh Saikia and Mohini Mohan Gogoi were rescued three days later by security forces from Nagaland, close to the Indo-Myanmar border, in a joint operation.
On Tuesday, Baruah had confirmed that Saikia was still in the outfit’s custody and was safe.
Himanta Biswa Sarma has said Saikia was being kept at a location in Myanmar close to the border with India.
Chief minister Sarma said he considers reports of ULFA-I chief’s promise as a positive step. “But I will be able to give a formal response only after I hear what Baruah has said,” he said.
Soon after the abduction, ULFA-I had issued a seven-point list of demands to three major oil companies, ONGC, Oil India Limited and Indian Oil Corporation Limited that included a demand for 95% quota in jobs for indigenous residents of Assam.
The chief minister appeared to respond to this demand at his Press conference on Thursday, underlining that people often forget how Assam benefited due to the petroleum companies. The state earns ₹18,000 crore from the oil sector annually and anyone who wants the sector to contribute more to Assam should hold discussions with the state government which can raise it with the Centre. “As the CM, it will be my government’s task to ensure that these companies do more for the state in coming years,” he added.
“If this sector is targeted, our state’s economic backbone will be broken,” said Sarma.
The banned insurgent last week announced a three-month unilateral ceasefire and suspension of all operations citing the Covid-19 pandemic.