Guwahati: Abducted by separatist militant outfit United Liberation Front of Assam (Independent) over hundred days back, Assamese engineer Pranab Kumar Gogoi finally returned home in eastern Assam on Saturday evening. However, the other abducted individual from Bihar (Ram Kumar), is yet to be released by Ulfa (Independent) leaders. Apparently, the banned militant outfit has not issued any statement over his release.
“It’s like a new life for me as I had to pass all my days under grave uncertainties. Both of us (read along with Ram Kumar) were separated on 4 March 2021 and I thought he was already released. For the last four weeks I have no idea about Kumar’s whereabouts,” said Gogoi
while speaking to local reporters. Gogoi was traced by the security personnel in Indo-Myanmar border areas. Both the employees of Haryana based Quippo Oil and Gas Infrastructure
Limited were kidnapped by the militants on 21 December 2020 from Dayun Khumsai drilling area of Arunachal Pradesh for ransoms. Gogoi, who hails from Sivasagar and Ram Kumar hailing from Khagaria locality were expected to be released by 4 March after obligatory negotiations with the company.
However, it was delayed because of ‘misreporting’ by a city based digital news platform about their release and demanded an apology from the media outlet. Finally, the issue was resolved after repeated apologies from the concerned scribes. They tendered apologies along with a fervent appeal to release both the Quippo employees. Indian Journalists’ Union (IJU), in a statement issued from Hyderabad on 6 March, expressed utter dismay over repeated intimidations by Ulfa (I) rebels against the scribes. Expressing concern over the development, IJU president K Sreenivas Reddy and secretary general Balwinder Singh Jammu requested the militant leaders to clarify the whereabouts of Gogoi and Kumar, so that concerned families get convinced about their safety.
“There are instances in the past where the Ulfa leaders played the tricks when they had already killed abducted individuals but continued negotiations with the victim families,” said the IJU statement adding that as the outfit lately tried to blame the scribes for the fate of abducted employees and it definitely carried significance. It carries significance as Ulfa (I) military chief Paresh Barua on 12 January admitted that both the abducted Quippo employees were in their custody. Speaking to a city based news channel, Barua even threatened to take actions against them if the outfit’s share of money (for extracting natural resources in Northeast) was not paid by the company. And the first victim will be the Bihar man, asserted Barua.
Earlier, Journalists’ Forum Assam (JFA) urged the State police to unearth, if any, conspiracies against the media persons by injecting toxic inputs to the militant outfit. The IJU echoed similar views asserting that if anyone was pushing information to the outfit for settling personal scores and thus fixing a target for armed rebels that must be considered as a serious offence under the law.
The issue even touched Gauhati Press Club (GPC) as it organised a formal live audio interview with Ulfa (I) military chief Paresh Barua on 21 February, which was legally challenged by a city based senior journalist. The petitioner Biswajit Nath lodged an FIR at Latashil police station for trying to give space to a separatist leader of a banned armed group which emerged as a terrorist outfit threatening the sovereignty and integrity of India.
Even though the program could not be managed properly as a group of city police personnel arrived at the press club premises, it is beyond doubts that the concerned authority deliberately organized the program and announced it in advance to the local media outlets that Ulfa (I) chief would be live in the program to answer queries from the attending reporters.
Now why necessary actions should not be taken under the unlawful activities prevention act of 1967 against GPC president Manoj Nath (c/o Niyomiya Barta, Pride East Entertainment Private Limited, Christianbasti, Guwahati, Assam) and secretary Sanjay Ray (c/o The Assam Tribune, Maniram Dewan Road, Chandmari, Guwahati, Assam), questioned in the FIR.
The petitioner also mentioned that in 1998 a small group of brave journalists and patriotic citizens dared to defy the diktat of separatist militants (including Ulfa) to hoist National tri-colour at the same club premises. They took tremendous risk two decades back while paying tributes to the martyrs of freedom movement on the Independence & Republic Day as the militants threatened them of dire consequences.
Patriotic People’s Front Assam (PPFA), a forum of nationalist citizens also expressed concerns over the Ulfa (I) program and denounced the club committee saying that GPC has a legacy of anti-terrorism protest-demonstrations as its senior member-scribes marched to the street demanding justice to the family of journalist Kamala Saikia, who was brutally killed by Ulfa militants on 9 August 1991 for his critical media columns.
"It is shameful that the present press club committee has done mockery to the spirit of devoted journalists by inviting a dreaded anti-national militant for a program where he was supposed to address reporters from an undisclosed location glorifying his stand on separatism, abduction, extortion etc,” asserted the PPFA statement urging the media outlets ‘not to glorify the militants’ for any reason.