North East

Himanta appeals to ULFA (I) chief to release ONGC employee

Guwahati, May 20 (UNI): Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma on Thursday said if the banned insurgent outfit ULFA (I) is serious about engaging in talks with the government then it should walk forward demonstrating its will to build up a conducive environment as he appealed to the outfit chief Paresh Barua to release the abducted ONGC employee, Ritul Saikia, at the earliest.

“Ritul Saikia’s safe release will be another step forward from the three-month unilateral ceasefire declared by the outfit,” Sarma said.

Sarma clarified that it is only the Centre that will have the last word on peace talks or ceasefire with the banned outfit. However, he said that the state government will facilitate the process.

“Any call of peace talks will be looked at positively by Prime Minister Narendra Modi or Home Minister Amit Shah,” Sarma said, adding that for any peace talks between the government and the outfit, ground rules have to be chalked out.

The chief minister informed that ULFA(I)’s demand for more investment by ONGC and OIL in the state is being pursued by the government, in its own procedures. “Holding someone hostage will not serve any purpose or increase investment in Assam,” Sarma said.

Saikia and two other ONGC employees were abducted from Lakuwa on April 21, but the other two were rescued from a Nagaland village on April 24 following an encounter between the militants and security forces. Saikia was, however, not among the rescued persons.

ULFA (I) chief Paresh Barua claimed on Wednesday that Saikia is in their captivity and in sound health.

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