Militants answer distress call Sushanta Talukdar

22 02 2009

Source: The Hindu

Rescue Tamil Nadu surveyors abducted by another outfit in southern Assam

Abductors talked to each other in Nagamese

DNLF militants demanded Rs. 14 crore for release

Guwahati: For 15 days they only cooked rice, salt and some biscuits to eat as they were made to trek for hours through deep jungles, even during late night, in southern Assam’s North Cachar Hills district as their abductors – nine tribal youth heavily armed with Kalashnikovs and other sophisticated weapons – kept guard all the time.

Captives’ ordeal

The ordeal of being held captive in an unknown place began on February 5 for D.S.K. Shathrac from Chennai, C. Suresh from Vellore, Nitish Kumar from Jharkhand and Mahinder Kumar from Kanpur – all four working as surveyors for a Chennai-based private company, Eagle Marketing Consortium, when they were abducted at gunpoint by militants of the little-known Dimasa National Liberation Front (DNLF) from Khelma Basti village under Langting police station in N.C. Hills district.

The four were rescued by militants of another underground outfit – Dima Halam Daogah (Jewel Gorlossa faction) – after a brief encounter between the cadres of the two outfits and handed over to the Langting police station on Thursday night.

It was Senior Vice-President of IOT Infrastructure and Energy Services Limited Ashok Saikia, who sought the help of DHD (Jewel faction), also known as Black Widow, for rescue of the surveyors in lieu of facilitating ceasefire and dialogue between the outfit and the government.

The company had bagged the contract awarded by Oil India Limited for a seismic survey in Karbi Anglong and N.C. Hills in connection with oil exploration and it gave a sub-contract to the Chennai-based firm.

“There was an exchange of fire between the cadres of DNLF and DHD for about 10 to 15 minutes on February 17. Two bullets whizzed past us.

Luckily, no one was injured. As the DNLF cadres guarding us fled after the gun battle, the DHD militants told us that they had come to rescue us. During captivity we used to pray for over 45 minutes as we had nothing else to do.

The DNLF militants liked the handset of Shathrac and promised to pay Rs. 2000 for it. They took the handset but could not pay Shathrac the money as they had to flee following the encounter,” said Nitish Kumar.

Mr. Kumar said their abductors were talking to each other in Nagamese and told them they were returning from Bangladesh.

Mr. Ashok Saikia, son of two-time Chief Minister, the late Hiteswar Saikia, told journalists here on Saturday he had decided to seek the help of DHD (Jewel) after the abductors, who claimed to be DNLF militants demanded an astronomical ransom of Rs. 14 crore and threatened to kill the surveyors if it was not paid in a week.

“Since we were against paying ransom, I decided to seek the help of DHD (Jewel) as I knew that the outfit was keen to have a ceasefire and initiate a dialogue. I told them that I was ready to facilitate it, utilising the good relationship my family had with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, if they rescued the abducted employees,” Mr. Saikia said.

He also distributed copies of his four-page written appeal to the self-styled commander-in-chief of the DHD (Jewel) Niranjan Hojai.

Mr. Saikia said the DHD agreed to rescue the surveyors and wanted him to immediately commit himself through the media on facilitating the proposed dialogue, and to highlight the four key demands of the outfit.

“Not a single pie was paid for the release of the captives,” he said.

His company would soon resume its work and he would keep his end of the bargain — facilitate the peace process.