‘No ransom paid for official kidnapped by Bodo militants’

August 3rd, 2010 - 11:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Aug 3 (IANS) No ransom was paid to secure the release of a forest official of Maharashtra who was kidnapped by Bodo militants while on a holiday in Arunachal Pradesh, a key negotiator said Tuesday.
Former inspector general of police S. S. Suradkar, who led the negotiating team to secure the release of Indian Forest Service officer Vilas Bardekar, told media persons that “not a single paisa changed hands” and the release was “absolutely unconditional”.

“I can say with assertiveness that no ransom was paid. I categorically deny that any money has changed hands,” Suradkar said.

Citing national interest, he however declined to reveal the names of the Bodo commanders with whom the negotiations were carried out.

“I shall not share some details as it is linked to national security and the country’s integrity,” said Suradkar, who had camped in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh to ensure that Bardekar, who is also his relative, was freed without any harm.

On his part, Bardekar, looking weary but relaxed after his 78-day ordeal in captivity, said that he was treated with courtesy and respect by the Bodos, most of whom were youngsters in the 19-26 age group.

“They used to call me ‘uncle,’ take care of all my needs, massaged my feet, washed my clothes, gave me good food to eat. But none of them communicated much with me,” Bardekar said.

He said that he was never handled roughly and the captors also took care to go a distance before consuming tobacco products.

“This is quite surprising since they are known to be absolutely ruthless and have killed other hostages in the past,” Suradkar pointed out.

He expressed his gratitude to the former state additional chief secretary (Forests) B. P. Pandey, who retired three days ago, and Chief Conservator of Forests Prakash Thosare who kept in regular touch during the negotiation efforts.

Suradkar said that the state governments of Maharashtra, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and central security and intelligence agencies also helped a lot in securing Bardekar’s release.

Bardekar was left Sunday by the militants at Battasipur village in Arunachal Pradesh. From there he contacted the local police and finally was taken to Guwahati, and came to Mumbai en route to Pune.

Earlier, state Forests Minister Patangrao Kadam felicitated Bardekar on his safe return at Mantralaya.

Bardekar, an IFS officer of 1984 batch, is currently posted as joint director (Administration) in the social forestry directorate in Pune.

He was on a fortnight’s leave to pursue his hobby of spotting butterflies, which abound in that region, Suradkar said.

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