Pranab Kumar Gogoi with his family at Sivasagar on Sunday. – UB Photos

Manoj Kr Borthakur

SIVASAGAR, April 4: Ending a gruelling 104-day captivity in undisclosed locations in the faraway hills beyond the Indo-Myanmar border, Quippo Oil and Gas Infrastructure Limited’s engineer Pranab Kumar Gogoi, who was abducted by armed militants from the company’s Enaou drill site in Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh on December 21 along with colleague Ram Kumar of Bihar, reached his Habiram Bora Path residence here around 10:40 pm yesterday amid tumultuous jubilation of relatives and friends, and tears of his family.

Talking to this correspondent in a relaxed atmosphere at his home on Sunday, Gogoi narrated his harrowing experience how a ten-member armed group – seven belonging to the ULFA(I) and three to the NSCN(K), took the abductee duo over rough hill tracks, jungles, fields, rivers  and uninhabited land on foot for 28 days, halting at temporary shelters near foothills for rest and resuming the journey to unknown places early in the morning.

Gogoi said after leaving their drill site camp at 6:30 am on December 21, 2020 they kept on walking, resting in nights, till January 15, 2021 to the Indo-Mynmar border post. They crossed the Patkai Hills during the next two days to  reach a certain virtually habitation-free area beyond the Indian borders. They were kept in temporary shelters and were given military dress to wear and also a hair cut similar to the army men so that others would not be able to identify them as abducted individuals.

During their stay in the region, the shelters were frequently changed as both Indian and Mynmar armies had been pursuing them from the beginning. The food served to them in the shelters was good, usually locally available vegetable, pork and poultry. There was no milk for them on the menu.

On March 4, the armed group was divided into two and one group took Ram Kumar to another location and Gogoi did not meet his colleague again. Only on April 2, he was informed by the members of the group that time for his release has come and asked him to get ready.

Next morning they set out on foot again and walked till the midday in another direction. After they reached a hill top, the ULFA(I) members told him to continue downhill alone for the next three hours where he would be received by the general people. Accordingly, Gogoi came along the hilly road and reached Lumri, an Arunachal village near Jairampur and was received by Arunachal Police and media people at about 2 pm on April 3. His wife Namita received him in Tinsukia and took him home.

Gogoi thanked everyone and wished that this should be the last case of abduction in Assam as such acts cannot solve any problem. He also urged the underground outfits to be realistic rather than running after an unrealistic goal. He said such incidents will compel the private companies to pull out of the Northeast affecting “our economy as Quippo itself has engaged over 2,000 youths from Assam alone.”

He also thanked the media that relentlessly tried to bring the militants to the negotiation table and solve the deadlock. He further said that he would be happy if only he gets the news of Ram Kumar’s release. Gogoi said company officials from New Delhi have advised him to take rest for a while. He hopes to rejoin duties after a thorough medical check-up.