Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC) employee Retul Saikia was released by the United Liberation Front of Asom-Independent (ULFA-I) on Saturday morning, a month after his abduction. Saikia was released at Longwa in Nagaland’s Mon district near the Indo-Myanmar border at 7 am, authorities said. He is expected to reach Borhalla, his home in Assam’s Jorhat district later this evening.
Following Saikia’s release, Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma tweeted: “Heartily welcome release of Ritul Saikia, ONGC employee abducted by ULFA, early today! Grateful to Honble UHM @AmitShah for constant guidance. Hope an era of peace & development is firmly established in state with cooperation of one and all. Pray to Almighty for His Blessings.”
Heartily welcome release of Ritul Saikia, ONGC employee abducted by ULFA, early today! Grateful to Honble UHM @AmitShah for constant guidance.
Hope an era of peace & development is firmly established in state with cooperation of one and all. Pray to Almighty for His Blessings pic.twitter.com/9kjuVTNKhb
— Himanta Biswa Sarma (@himantabiswa) May 22, 2021
“He was handed over to a team of Assam Police, Nagaland Police and Assam Rifles. He is still in Mon district right now but will reach Assam in three-four hours,” said Sudhakar Singh, SP, Charaideo district.
On April 21, Saikia, along with two other ONGC employees, Mohini Mohan Gogoi and Alakesh Saikia, was abducted by the ULFA-I militants from a rig site in Lakuwa field in Charaideo district while on night duty. While Mohini (32) and Alakesh (28) were rescued in 72 hours by the state security forces, Saikia remained in the ULFA-I’s custody. All three work in the production department and stay at the ONGC Colony in Sivasagar.
Following the abduction, the Assam Police arrested 14 “linkmen” and three more persons, including a constable of Assam Police Battalion (APBn), for their role in the abduction.
While the ULFA-I initially claimed that the Saikia was not in their custody, last week Paresh Barua, ULFA-I chief, told the media that he was indeed in the outfit’s custody and would be released in four days.
The declaration was preceded by CM Sarma’s formal appeal to Barua to release Saikia.
Speaking to the media just after he was released in Mon district earlier today, Saikia said that he was “grateful” that they had released him. He added he was “exhausted after having walked several days” through the jungles to Assam. “I missed my baby a lot,” he told reporters.
Saikia, who is 38, has a four-month-old child. Since his abduction, the family said they spent sleepless nights worrying about his safety. On Tuesday, CM Sarma called on the family and assured them that the government was putting in their best for Saikia’s release.
“We are so happy and relieved that he is safe. There are no words to express how we are feeling,” said Rantu Saikia, Retul’s cousin. “We see spoke to him on the phone and he said he was doing alright and told us not to worry. He will reach in the evening.”
After taking office earlier this month, CM Sarma had appealed to insurgents, including the ULFA-I, to leave the path of violence and return to the mainstream. “Murders and kidnappings… they do not solve problems, but complicate matters,” Sarma had said.
In December 2020, two employees of Quippo Oil and Gas Infrastructure Limited, were kidnapped by ULFA-I and the NSCN from a drilling site in Arunachal Pradesh’s Changlang district — both have been rescued.
Last week, the ULFA-I announced that it would halt all operations for next three months citing the Covid pandemic, a development that followed a grenade blast killing two for which the organisation is suspected.
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