Signalling growing chemistry between Assam chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma and Ulfa (I) deputy chief and army commander Paresh Barua, the latter today assured abducted ONGC official Ritul Saikia would be home in four days.
Barua’s assurance came in response to Sarma’s appeal to release Ritul during a press conference. The Ulfa (I) leader reacted even before the press conference ended, which is a rare occurrence. Sarma, in return, welcomed Barua’s assurance.
Sarma had said that the Ulfa (I) should take forward its recent declaration of a three-month ceasefire on account of the raging pandemic in the state by first releasing Ritul.
To the proscribed outfit’s demands raised on the oil and gas companies – Oil India Limited, ONGC and Indian Oil Corporation – Sarma said they should leave this matter to the government.
“I take the responsibility. The companies have also assured me they would do whatever is required for the welfare of the people of Assam,” he said. “Why kill the chicken, let us continue to have its egg,” he said referring to the companies and the need to allow them to continue working in the interest of the state. The state government earns a large amount of royalty from them.
The outfit had recently slapped a seven-point demand on these companies asking for measures for the welfare of the people of the state, particularly 100 per cent employment to local unemployed youth.
Later, in a telephonic conversation with a television channel, Barua sounded exuberant over Sarma’s announcement at the press conference.
“I have never seen such a bold and responsible chief minister in the past 60 years,” he said. “We are convinced he will do what he has said,” Barua said.
“I assure you 200 per cent that Ritul will reach home within four days,” he said empathy dripping for his three-month-old child and elderly parents. He also said he was not the one to be thanked, but it was Sarma who deserved it.
Ritul and two other ONGC officials were abducted on April 21. On April 24, security forces rescued Alakesh Saikia and Mohini Mohan Gogoi from Mon district of Nagaland after an encounter, but Ritul went missing. The Ulfa (I) had then said they had left the trio in the custody of local villagers and that the security forces could have killed Ritul to tarnish its image.