Shillong, Jan. 29: Prakash Bezbaruah, the doctor from the Garo Hills who was abducted by militants on December 19, was released today.
After exactly a month and 11 days of captivity in a hideout of the A’chik National Volunteers’ Council (ANVC), the district health and medical officer of the East Garo Hills was set free at Williamnagar.
Meghalaya home minister Lotsing A. Sangma told newsmen here that the doctor was freed at 12.30 pm without payment of any ransom.
Medical practitioners in the Garo Hills, who were on indefinite ceasework in protest against the kidnapping, resumed their duties from 6 pm. The Meghalaya Medical Services Association also expressed its happiness over the hostage’s release.
The minister said the ANVC compromised on the ransom having realised that the doctor’s family would not be able to pay the Rs 30 lakh they had initially demanded.
After January 15, however, the outfit did a complete turnaround and said it wanted the state government to upgrade health services in the Garo Hills in lieu of the doctor’s release.
“We conveyed our commitment to meet the ANVC’s demands to upgrade health services in the Garo Hills through press reports, which must be the reason why the doctor was released,” Sangma maintained and ruled out exerting any political influence.
The home minister claimed that as the Election Commission’s code of conduct was in force, the government forwarded a press note mentioning its plans to install ultrasound and CT scan facilities and improve intake capacity of most hospitals and health centres to the ANVC “through their messenger”.
He said the state government would provide security to all state government officials, “especially in the rural areas”, if they asked for it.
Based on a report by the East Garo Hills superintendent of police, Sangma said Bezbaruah was not in the best of health. “He has some health problems and was resting when I contacted him,” Sangma said. His family members said he was “extremely tired and shaken”.