Guwahati, June 29: Police sniffed a chance to rescue Food Corporation of India’s abducted executive director for the Northeast after the arrest this morning of four Ulfa militants who supposedly know his whereabouts.
The breakthrough was the culmination of a nightlong joint operation by army and police teams at Barama in Baksa district.
The frustration of a near miss a week ago was somewhat erased when the arrested quartet turned out to be a back-up squad for the Ulfa team that has been holding P.C.Ram captive since April 17.
The police missed Ram and his captors by a few hours on June 22. A police official said three Ulfa militants and a person who could be the FCI executive director spent the previous night in a house at Baganpara, also in Baksa district. The militants fled along with the man thought to be Ram before the police received information and raided the house.
The owner of the house, Raben Boro, told the police that Ulfa contacted him to say that some of its members would spend a night there. They left a few hours before the police raided the house.
Boro identified Ram from a photograph the police showed him.
The operation in Barama was launched after the police received information about the FCI official being held captive in the area.
A nightlong search led the police and army teams to the house of Madan Rajbongshi, a resident of Murkuchiapara under Barama police station, around 8am. The arrested militants were hiding in that house.
A police official said the four militants — Sankar Rajbongshi alias Bipul, Harmohan Saud alias Bikash, Mono Das and Pradip Barman alias Dipak — had been supporting the “core group” that was constantly on the move with their hostage.
“They have been shifting Ram from one place to another. We believe the group we arrested was providing logistical support,” the official said.
The arrested militants were carrying three grenades, three programmable timer devices, two pistols, a revolver, 4 kg of TNT, 3.5 kg of RDX, four detonators, a few batteries, 32 rounds of ammunition for Kalashnikov rifles and 11 rounds of pistol bullets.
A member of the AASU’s Baksa unit was also arrested last night for his alleged link with Ulfa, a PTI report said.
The police took Apurba Das, the assistant general secretary of the district unit of the AASU, into custody at the organisation’s Nalbari office.
Investigators are convinced that Ram is still in Baksa, one of the four districts that are under the Bodoland Territorial Council.
“We are interrogating the arrested militants about Ram’s whereabouts. They were definitely in the thick of the abduction plot,” the police official said.
The FCI executive director was abducted along with his driver while returning from office to his rented Guwahati apartment. Ulfa freed the driver a few days later.
Ulfa was said to have asked for Rs 21 crore in ransom immediately after the abduction. It later demanded the release of two arrested militants in exchange for the executive director. The government said there was no question of a barter.