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Rebels abduct Pune official - Snatched while clicking butterflies

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  • Published 14.05.10

Guwahati/Itanagar, May 13: Suspected militants of the National Democratic Front of Boroland abducted an Indian Forest Service official of the Maharashtra cadre, V.S. Bardekar, from Daimara village in West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh, last night.

Bardekar, a cadre of the 1984 batch, who was posted at Pune as the joint director (administration), directorate of social forestry, Maharashtra, was on a private visit when he was abducted. Security forces have launched an operation to rescue him.

Sources said Bardekar, a butterfly enthusiast, had gone to the village, about 250km from Itanagar, under Bhalukpong police station yesterday to photograph butterflies and spend the night there. The area is close to the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border, which is known for its large species of butterflies. “Maybe, he hoped to see some new species,” a forest official of Arunachal Pradesh said.

The sources said 11 youths, armed with automatic rifles and grenades, arrived at the residence of former panchayat member Lam Norvu, where Bardekar was putting up, around 8pm. They beat up a casual worker of the Arunachal Pradesh forest department, Payao Magaji, and a guide, Gombu Tsering, who were accompanying Bardekar, and took the official away.

Bardekar, Magaji and Tsering had gone to the village on two motorcycles, including one belonging to the Kelong forest beat office. The sources said Bardekar had visited Eagle’s Nest wildlife sanctuary in the district before arriving at the village.

Prakash Thosre, director, directorate of social forestry, Maharashtra, told The Telegraph over phone from Pune that he had learnt of the abduction from Arunachal Pradesh this morning. “He was on leave and on a private visit. He had told me he was going to the Northeast. He was supposed to join duty on May 24,” Thosre said, adding that Bardekar was a “nature lover” and took keen interest in butterflies. “The police in Arunachal Pradesh have told me they are trying to sort out the issue.”

Bardekar’s family could not be contacted as, according to the director’s office, they had recently moved house and the telephone numbers were not available with the office.

A senior police official in Assam said the NDFB was using the hilly and forested terrain on the inter-state boundary to hide and strike. “We are on alert on our side of the border in case the militants try to sneak in and move somewhere else with the official,” he added. He, however, admitted that it was difficult to launch counter-insurgency operations in areas where the rebels took shelter given the terrain. “One has to walk all the way and by the time we reach they will come to know of it and move away,” he said.

Sources said the NDFB was holding captive several persons they had abducted from Assam in these areas, including an 11-year-old ailing boy whom they had abducted recently from Sonitpur district. The militants have demanded Rs 1 crore for his release.

“We have reasons to believe the boy is still alive,” the police official said.