Indian separatist group, the United Liberation Front of Asom Independent (ULFA (I)), has threatened to this week kill two oilfield workers it kidnapped in December after the ransom deadline passed without payment being made.
The two hostages, Pranab Kumar Gogoi and Ram Kumar – employees of Delhi-based Quippo Oil and Gas Infrastructure, were abducted at gunpoint two months ago when working on Oil India Limited’s (OIL) Kumchaikha wellsite in Arunachal Pradesh in Northeast India.
The banned ULFA (I) on Friday threatened to take the “ultimate step” on the kidnapped duo, leading senior politicians to call for them to be released unharmed.
The ULFA(I) told the Press Trust of India via email that talks with Quippo management from 16 to 19 February “failed to reach any favourable conclusion and an ultimate step on the two will be taken next week”.
The insurgent organisation had reportedly demanded a 20 crore rupees (US$2.76 million) ransom to be paid by 16 February for the safe release of the two oilfield workers.
“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 ULFA (I) said in the email written in Assamese.
The two abducted men are drilling superintendent Gogoi, who hails from Assam, and radio operator Kumar who is from the state of Bihar.
Police from Arunachal Pradesh and Assam for weeks have searched extensively for the kidnapped oilfield workers, who were thought to have initially been held near to India’s land border with Myanmar. However, local media report that it is believed they were recently moved into Myanmar, where a military coup took place on 1 February.
Paresh Baruah, the fugitive military leader of the ULFA (I) justified the “ultimate step” primarily to “teach occupational India a lesson” for exploiting “independent Assam’s” natural resources including oil and gas, reported The Hindu.
However, in a glimmer of hope, Baruah on Sunday said: “[The] final ultimatum does not [necessarily] mean death sentence. Discussions are on about the two officials. We have taken in good faith about the appeal from various organisations of the state. We have deferred any action for now.”