Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal Saturday appealed to the Assam-based insurgent group ULFA-I chief Paresh Baruah to release the two employees of Quippo Oil and Gas Infrastructure, who were kidnapped last December.
“We appeal to ULFA-I to release the employees of OIL on humanitarian ground. Our doors are always open for talks. Therefore, we appeal to ULFA-I chief Paresh Baruah to shun violence and have dialogue,” Mr Sonowal said.
“Recently, many rebel groups have surrendered and are ready for dialogue,” he added.
Executive Director and state-level coordinator of Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) G Ramesh also appealed ULFA-I to release both the employees.
United Liberation Front of Asom – Independent (ULFA-I) on Friday, threatened to take the “ultimate step” on the two employees after the first deadline ended.
The insurgent outfit reportedly demanded a ransom of Rs 20 crore from Quippo for their release and had set February 16 as the deadline.
Gurugram-based Quippo was hired by Oil India (OIL) for drilling operations.
ULFA-I had asked other employees of Quippo to stay away from work and pressure OIL to rehabilitate them.
“If our instructions are ignored, then in the case of any unfortunate situation, the employees, Quippo authorities, OIL, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh governments will be responsible for the consequences,” the outfit had said.
The two employees, drilling superintendent Pranab Kumar Gogoi and radio operator Ram Kumar, were kidnapped by the insurgents on December 21 last year from Kumchaikha hydrocarbon drilling site in Changlang, Arunachal Pradesh. While Mr Gogoi is a native of Assam, Mr Kumar hails from Bihar.
According to NDTV sources, the two employees were being held somewhere in neighbouring Myanmar where a united front of banned outfit United National Liberation Front of Western South East Asia (UNLFWSEA) and other rebel bodies has base camps.
Earlier, Assam Cabinet Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma had also pleaded with ULFA-I to refrain from taking actions that may “shame the three crore people of Assam in the world’s eyes,” citing instances of violence by the organisation that maligned Assam.
ULFA was formed in 1979 to establish a sovereign Assam through an armed movement. Mr Barua was once the chief of its military wing. Since a split in the organisation in 2011 over the leadership’s decision to hold peace talks with the government, he has led the ULFA-I faction.