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Kidnap heat scalds Dispur
- Jha episode adds to Ram furore

Nagaon/New Delhi, July 17: After being accused of getting P.C. Ram killed, the Tarun Gogoi government was today charged with being “indifferent” to the death of mining engineer K.N. Jha in militant captivity.

Jha, a senior mining manager at the Cement Corporation of India’s Bokajan plant, died of cardiac arrest while walking through rough terrain along with 10 other hostages in Karbi Anglong district on Sunday night.

Angry CCI staff said it was a shame that the government did not even bother to depute a minister or a senior bureaucrat to visit Bokajan after such a shocking incident. The employees said they would rather approach Delhi than Dispur for better security arrangements.

Sources did not rule out an indefinite strike at the CCI if security for the workforce was not upgraded.

Between 15 and 20 militants of the Karbi Longri North Cachar Liberation Front reached the CCI colony at Dilai, 24km from Bokajan town, around 7.45pm on Sunday and started searching the quarters for people to take hostage. Jha and mining foreman Janardhan Bhagat were among 11 people rounded up and forced to walk.

The militants stopped a truck on the way and herded all of them into the vehicle. They had travelled barely another 2km towards Dillai Parbat when the truck fell into a roadside pond. The militants abandoned the vehicle and resumed the foot march, taking with them the driver and the handyman. Jha collapsed after begging the militants to shoot him.

Barring the driver and the handyman, the rest of the hostages were freed a little later. Muksang Ranghang, the handyman, returned to Bokajan last night. The driver, Rupsing Teron, is still missing, the officer-in-charge of Bokajan police station, Biswajit Purakayastha, said.

Jha’s son Sekhar and wife Asha took his body to their hometown, Darbhanga in Bihar, even as a 10-member delegation from the All Assam Students’ Union reached Bokajan to commiserate with CCI employees.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh condoled Jha’s death in a statement from New Delhi.

The CCI staff union said it would petition Union home minister Shivraj Patil and minister for heavy industries and public enterprises Sontosh Mohan Dev to deploy either Central Industrial Security Force or Border Security Force personnel at CCI installations.

The union said Dispur ignored several such petitions for additional security. “We apprised the state government of our security concerns time and again, but it did not react. A few armed homeguards and periodic patrolling by the police are not enough. We want well-equipped forces to be permanently deployed,” the general secretary of the union, Robin Hatiborua, said.

The Assam division of the CCI has 349 permanent employees. As many as 180 other employees opted for voluntary retirement recently.

As the CCI colony in Bokajan bristled over the government’s response to Jha’s death, the BJP gave the Ram episode a political colour in New Delhi.

Party leader Ravishankar Prasad said Tarun Gogoi’s remark that a few more officials could be abducted was unbecoming of a chief minister.

Ulfa took hostage Ram, who was heading Food Corporation of India’s operations in the Northeast, on April 17. He died on July 11, falling to bullets fired by the very police team that was to rescue him.

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