Guwahati/Paschim Borka village (Changsari), July 12: P.C. Ram died a second death last night, this time for real and at the hands of the very police team that was deputed to rescue him from the clutches of Ulfa militants.
The abducted executive director of the Food Corporation of India’s regional office spent his last hours crouched under a bed in a house at Paschim Borka village, 30 km from the Assam capital, as his captors exchanged gunfire with the police for nearly 180 minutes.
Around half-an-hour after midnight, the police entered the house to find three bodies, one of them Ram’s with a hole in his head and multiple wounds on his body.
“I have identified the body. It is of my father,” the FCI executive director’s son Pravin said in Guwahati tonight, just as he had done when he was shown another man’s body on July 1.
There have been several bizarre twists in this long-drawn saga, beginning with militants whisking away Ram and his driver from Guwahati on April 17. Ulfa freed the driver a few days later and asked for Rs 21 crore in ransom for the FCI official’s freedom. The militant group later asked for the release of two of its jailed leaders.
The turning point in the abduction drama came 12 days ago when the police dug out a body that was thought to be Ram’s from a pit on a riverbank in Baksa district. Pravin identified the body as that of his father and even cremated it in New Delhi, only to be told by Ulfa a week ago that Ram was alive. On Friday, a man who “sounded” like Ram called his family in Ghaziabad to say he was safe.
The body that was thought to be his was then said to be of a lance naik of the army who was killed by Ulfa. The mystery deepened when the wife of the armyman, Sunil Kumar, said it was not that of her husband.
Director-general of police R.N. Mathur said at Paschim Borka that a DNA test would be done to make sure that the man killed along with two Ulfa militants last night was Ram. Hair and skin samples retained from the body dug out in Baksa are already being tested in Hyderabad.
Official sources said bullets extracted from Ram’s body would also be sent for forensic tests to determine their bore and confirm whe-ther he died in the police firing or was shot by his captors.
The police said the extent of wounds suggested that the militants used Ram as a “human shield” when the police fired at them.
The deputy inspector-general of police for the central-western range, G.P. Singh, said the operation at Paschim Borka village was planned on receiving information about the presence of Ulfa militants and “a middle-aged man” in the house of farmer Gobinda Deka.
There was no explanation why the policemen did not take any precaution to ensure the safety of the man they were supposed to rescue.
Chief secretary P.C. Sharma defended the police saying “they did not have specific information about the presence of Ram in the house”.
Army, CRPF and BSF personnel backed the police offensive by sealing all entry and exit points in the vicinity of the village. The policemen came under fire when they approached the house around 8.30pm and the exchange of bullets continued till about midnight.
“We had to use para bombs to light up the area since it was pitch dark and we had no idea how many militants were holed up inside the house. The militants fired nearly 100 rounds of ammunition,” Singh said.
The owner of the house told the police that four militants demanded shelter on Tuesday night. “They threatened to kill us if we refused,” he said.
One of the militants left on a bicycle about an hour before the police raided the house. When the police arrived, the militants herded Deka, his wife and son into one of the rooms on the left wing of the house. None of them was wounded in the firing.
The police found two AK-56 rifles, an M-20 pistol, two grenades, an IED and a cache of ammunition in the house.