GUWAHATI, Feb 7 - Security operations are under way in an area under Manas Tiger Reserve to extract six young volunteers abducted by an unidentified armed group on February 6. According to official sources, local people have joined efforts in seeking the release of the three women and three men who were volunteering for WWF-India near the Ultapani area of Kokrajhar district.
According to an WWF-India personnel, the six volunteers are Syed Naushad Zaman of Golaghat, Srabana Goswami of Guwahati, Gautam Kishore Sarma, Pallavi Chakravarty of Shillong, Pranjal Saikia of Nagaon and Tarali Goswami of Nalbari.
The volunteers were working as a team in a WWF-India survey on Tiger Occupancy in the Manas Tiger Reserve and were collaborating with a local NGO. Yesterday two others who were also abducted were released, but the six WWF volunteers were held back, he added.
Ultapani range, where the abduction took place, lies in the western part of Manas Tiger Reserve close to the border with Bhutan. The area contains difficult terrain as it is situated in the foothills of Eastern Himalaya.
A senior BTC official, who is presently in Bhutan, told The Assam Tribune over phone that all possible efforts were being made to secure the release of the young volunteers. "We have held meetings with local people, who have also demanded the safe return of the innocent volunteers," he mentioned.
He revealed that a meeting has taken place in which senior district officials were present, and added that a strategy to resolve the issue has been discussed.
Several non-governmental scientific and conservation organisations working in North East India, including WWF-India, Wildlife Trust of India, Aaranyak, Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), Dolphin Foundation, EcoSystems-India today appealed for the safe and immediate release of six conservation volunteers suspected to have been abducted on Sunday afternoon from the Ultapani forests in Chirang.
The NGOs hoped, "good sense will prevail and the abducted conservation volunteers will be immediately released unharmed in order to enable the civil society organisations and their workers to contribute towards nature conservation". This will ensure environmental security as well as better quality of life for all, especially for the communities living in and around the forested areas.
Our Correspondent adds: An FIR has been lodged at Bismuri OP under Kokrajhar PS in this connection. The group of WWF-India volunteers came to the area for wildlife census on January 31 and started work in collaboration with local NGOs. Police have suspected the involvement of anti-talk NDFB faction. Personnel from BSF, SSB and Army have intensified combing operations for the rescue of those abducted.