Tura, June 16: A massive combing operation was launched today to track down the unidentified militants involved in the abduction of a State Bank of India (SBI) official.
“Security forces from West and South West Garo Hills are conducting joint operations in the Garobadha-Rangsakona area,” said superintendent of police, West Garo Hills, Mukesh Singh.
Arvind Kumar, who was posted at Ampati branch as its manager, was abducted from Garobadha today around 10am while on his way to Ampati, the district headquarters of South-West Garo Hills. Police said Kumar was travelling with his driver Sanjay Mahanta when three suspected militants stopped their car near a bridge at Garobadha, and abducted them at gunpoint.
“First they asked for money. On being refused, the three militants sat in the car and asked the driver to take the vehicle towards Rang-sakona. After reaching Rang-sakona, they kept the manager and asked the driver to leave with his vehicle,” said Singh.
Kumar had joined SBI as a probationary officer in 2008. He started his career as an assistant manager at Chandmari branch in Tura. He was promoted last year and was posted to Ampati as its branch manager. He hails from Bihta in Bihar. The police are interrogating the driver.
Assistant general manager, SBI, Garo hills division, Nixon Joseph, has appealed to the abductors to release the official, who has come from outside to serve the region and its people. “Bank officials depend only on their salary for their livelihood. I request those who have kidnapped the official to release him, as he has to support his family and child. SBI is trying its best to develop Garo hills and incidents like this would only dampen our efforts to do more.”
Condemnation on the alleged abduction of the SBI official has also come from chief minister Mukul Sangma and the Opposition National People’s Party (NPP).
In a statement, the chief minister, while condemning the abduction in the “strongest of words”, said, “Whoever is involved in this crime are people who want to display their cowardice by holding up innocent people and keeping them as their bargaining chip.” He said this crime against society “shall not be tolerated”, and all efforts would be made to ensure that the perpetrators of the crime are brought to book.
NPP legislator James P.K. Sangma said the incident proved that law and order in Garo hills was “beyond” the control of the government. “The situation in Garo hills is reaching such a point where no citizen is safe. We request the perpetrators of this abduction to immediately release Arvind Kumar,” he said.
GNLA slams MLA
Meghalaya legislator Clifford R. Marak has drawn flak from the GNLA for his comment that the outfit was killing wild animals. The outfit today expressed concern for animals and has asked the wildlife department to pursue cases of animals killed in different police operations.
Marak had made the comment on the floor of the Assembly on June 12. The commander-in-chief of GNLA, Sohan D. Shira, in a statement issued here today said, “The allegation that GNLA is killing wild animals is baseless. His accusation is unwanted and false.”
Appreciating the concern of the legislator for wildlife, Shira said, “We highly appreciate your concern for the wildlife of Garo hills, but we cannot accept your speculative statement.”
The outfit also lambasted the police for rampant killing of wild animals during their operations against militants. The statement pointed out that an elephant was killed in last week’s encounter at Adugre, near Williamnagar. They also mailed pictures of mortars, which failed to explode.
The outfit is of the view that by bombarding the militant hideout in the jungle, the police are indirectly killing animals. “There are countless dead animals in the jungle rotting everywhere. They were killed in police firing”, said the statement. The outfit has also questioned as to why the forest and wildlife department failed to take up the matter as many animals were killed during different operations.