Tura, June 18: SBI official Arvind Kumar, abducted by suspected militants on Monday, was rescued by Meghalaya police today.
Kumar, 35, was abducted from Garobadha, a small township 27km from Tura, on his way to Ampati, which is 28km from Garobadha, under South West Garo Hills district on Monday. He was rescued from Antekagre village near Milliem village, about 28km from here, in the district around 8.30 this morning.
Kumar’s driver had been abducted too but he was released at Rangsakona, 32km from Tura, the same day. Ampati, Kumar’s place of posting, is chief minister Mukul Sangma’s constituency. Rangsakona is represented by the chief minister’s younger brother Zenith Sangma, minister for sports and youth affairs.
Massive search operations were launched in the Garobadha-Rangsakona area in South West Garo Hills and West Garo Hills districts on Monday afternoon and continued round-the-clock for two consecutive days. The combing operations were conducted by police personnel from West Garo Hills and South West Garo Hills districts as well as SOT (special operations team) and SWAT (special weapons and tactics) commandos of Meghalaya police, led by West Garo Hills superintendent of police Mukesh Singh.
The Garobadha spot from where Kumar was abducted falls under South West Garo Hills but Garobadha police station is in West Garo Hills district.
“We launched our operation on Monday afternoon. Based on our inputs, we intensified the search from 6.30 this morning. The operation is still on to nab them (suspected militants),” Singh said.
Police sources said search operations were undertaken from Sentapara, Mandagre, Manupara, Darongre, Boldamgre, Anjengre and Jembragre villages under South West Garo Hills. The police personnel mostly walked in these areas, as they had to cross a rough terrain and a small stream.
Giving details of the rescue, the SP said, “Five teams of policemen, who had left Tura this morning as part of the search operation, located them at Antekagre village. They were roughly 50 metres away. Seeing our police Gypsy, they fired. We retaliated and managed to rescue Kumar.”
The initial firing lasted two minutes, after which the abductors fled taking advantage of the rough terrain. “The policemen continued the firing for another 10-15 minutes but they managed to escape,” Singh added.
The SP said the rough terrain and inclement weather had posed difficulties but the police would continue the operation till they find the abductors.
Singh, however, refused to divulge further details of the operation. “We strongly suspect them (the abductors) to be militants. We have identified them but we would not like to disclose their names and the outfit,” he said.
Kumar, who hails from Bihta in Bihar, 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 posted at Ampati as the branch manager.
Kumar’s brother Ujjwal Anand expressed relief and thanked the police for the successful rescue operation.
Meghalaya home minister Roshan Warjri, appreciating the efforts made by the police, said the security forces have been on their toes and would continue to carry out operations to arrest those who disrupt peace in the state. “Public support and cooperation is also sought. It is not always easy for the police and efforts such as these need to be appreciated to motivate them to work further,” she added.
Assistant general manager, SBI (Garo hills division), Nixon Joseph, congratulated Meghalaya police and expressed gratitude to the police and other officials “for rescuing Kumar in the shortest possible time”. He appealed to the militants to lay down arms and added that SBI would be willing to provide them self-employment courses and loans. “We are working for the people of Garo hills and are willing to do everything to help them.”
The SBI, Northeast circle, in a statement, expressed gratitude to the Meghalaya government and the police for Kumar’s quick and safe release.
Circle chief manager Sanjay Kumar Magoo said, “Notwithstanding the hazards faced by the employees of the bank in serving the people of the region, it (the SBI) will remain committed to the development of its esteemed customers through its dedicated service.”
Additional reporting by Andrew W. Lyngdoh in Shillong