The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Meghalaya officials abducted

Shillong, April 2: Less than 24 hours after releasing customs inspector Deepak Mahanta and three others, militants suspected to be from the National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB) and the Achik National Volunteers’ Council (ANVC) abducted two officials of the Meghalaya government from Baghmara in South Garo Hills.

Police said Jatindra Bhattacharjee, executive engineer in the public works department, and Pobitra K. Hajong, deputy inspector of schools of Baghmara, were whisked away from their official residences around 7.30 pm last night.

The abductions dealt another demoralising blow to the state administration, which has been under pressure since the NDFB took Mahanta and six employees of a private company hostage on February 28. Gasuapara, from where they had been abducted, is barely 50 km from Baghmara.

No outfit has claimed responsibility for the abductions last night, but the police appear to be certain that the NDFB and the ANVC are behind the incidents. Officials said the duo had been abducted for ransom.

Sources in the Baghmara police station said a four-member group, brandishing sophisticated weapons, first entered Bhattacharjee’s residence and dragged him away. The rebels then went to Hajong’s residence and took him hostage. The two officials were alone in their quarters, the sources added.

The abductions took place even as the Union home ministry was toying with the idea of deploying the Assam Rifles and an additional battalion of the BSF in the South Garo Hills. The proposal to assign counter-insurgency duties to the Assam Rifles was forwarded by the Meghalaya government after the abduction of Mahanta and six employees of Dosi Tourism.

Sources said the Centre had consulted its advisory team on security and was willing to review its decision to keep the Assam Rifles out of counter-insurgency operations in Meghalaya. The Assam Rifles could soon be asked to conduct operations in the Garo Hills, specifically along the 126-km Indo-Bangladesh border there.

The Union home ministry has already asked the state government to draft a “clear-cut plan of action” to tackle militancy in the Garo Hills.

Deputy chief minister Donkupar Roy told The Telegraph today that the D.D. Lapang government had urged the Centre “to seriously ponder” on the developments in the Garo Hills. He said deployment of the Assam Rifles was one of the options suggested by the government.

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