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New Year heralds peace hopes
Power grid engineer freed in Chirang

Bongaigaon, Dec. 31: The year 2013 ended on a happy note for an abducted engineer who was freed this morning after nine days of captivity.

B. Ankanna Rao, 37, a site engineer working for BSC C&C ‘JV’, a Hyderabad-based company, told reporters today that after finishing his work at the firm’s site at Dababil under Runikhata police station in Chirang district on December 22, he had just started for other sites when a group of six to seven armed men, dressed in fatigues, waylaid his Bolero around 5.30pm and abducted him. They, however, spared his six co-workers, who were travelling with him in the vehicle.

Dababil is 65km from Hawli in Barpeta district, the company’s base in Assam, and 6km from Kajalgaon, the headquarters of Chirang district.

Rao said, “First, the masked miscreants took me some distance on a bike. Then they made me move on foot in jungles. We crossed two streams after which they kept me in a house. They talked to me in Hindi and gave me chapattis and rice to eat. They did not misbehave with me. They did not tell me why I was abducted. I couldn’t get their identity, whether they were militants or criminals. Lastly, when I appealed to them to have pity on my family, they released me around 4am this morning at Raumari near the bridge on the Aie.” Raumari in Chirang district is 194km from Guwahati.

He said the release journey had started last night around 10.30pm. He was blindfolded and four armed persons accompanied him.

At Raumari, Rao took an auto-rickshaw and travelled 7km to Chapaguri, which lies on National Highway 31. From Chapaguri, which is 3km from Kajalgaon, he took another vehicle and travelled 55km on NH 31 to Hawli.

Rao’s company, which had got the contract to set up power transmission towers from the Power Grid Corporation of India about two years ago, has been implementing the project in Chirang district for the past few months. Rao, a site engineer from Andhra Pradesh, had been visiting the sites in the district for the past two months.

Rao also met Chirang superintendent of police Ranjan Bhuyan at Kajalgaon, where his statement was taken before sending him for medical check-up.

Bhuyan said investigations had found that the abduction was carried out by a criminal gang, but the gang might be working for militant groups. He said a member of the gang had been arrested and jailed and the police were looking for the other members. He said the entire picture would become clear when the others were arrested.

Intelligence sources said criminal gangs, which are against NDFB (Songbijit), are perpetrating abduction and violence in Chirang district in the outfit’s name to invite immediate action against the militant faction.

Bhuyan said no ransom was paid to the criminals because of police action. However, a power grid source said the abductors had communicated with the company before releasing the engineer and the company officials knew that Rao would be released today, thus hinting at negotiations.

Chirang, one of the four districts that make up the Bodoland Territorial Areas District (BTAD), has seen at least 15 cases of abduction, including the abduction of NHPC general manager Anil Kumar Agarwal, over the past six months. Agarwal, who was abducted from Bhalukpong in Sonitpur district of Assam, was later “rescued” by security forces, reportedly after the payment of a ransom.