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April 3, 2000
Kidnapped RSS pracharaks plead for help
Nitin Gogoi in Guwahati
The four Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh pracharaks abducted by an insurgent group in the northeastern state of Tripura have written to their colleagues stating that they are alive, but under great physical and mental stress.
According to RSS leaders at Keshavdham, the Sangh's regional headquarters in Guwahati, the letter was written on March 16 from a National Liberation Front of Tripura hideout in Bangladesh's Chittagong hill tracts.
The NLFT, one of the two major insurgent groups in the state, has several camps in the Chittagong hills, just across Tripura's porous international border with Bangladesh.
The four pracharaks, all from West Bengal, were abducted by NLFT extremists on August 6, 1999, from a remote hamlet in the state's Dhalai district. All four -- Shyamal Sengupta, Dinen De, Sudhamay Dutta and Subhankar Datta -- were on a visit to a school run by the RSS-affiliated Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram (Tribal Welfare Organisation).
According to RSS officials in Guwahati, the letter, which bears the signatures of all four pracharaks, speaks about their "great mental agony and tension".
"We are still alive, but physically and mentally unwell. Please take up the matter with the authorities to ensure our release at the earliest," the letter said.
The NLFT had initially demanded Rs 10 million as ransom, but later scaled it down to Rs 5 million. The RSS leadership is, however, against paying any ransom. "We have already conveyed our stand to the NLFT," a top RSS leader in the Northeast told rediff.com
Indeed, even K S Sudarshan, the new RSS chief, on a recent visit to Tripura ruled out paying any ransom to the militants. "If we pay money for their release, the RSS will be unable to work here," he told a gathering of RSS workers in December 1999.
The family members of the four pracharaks collected Rs 1 million and handed it over to the NLFT about a month ago, but the insurgents refused to accept the sum and stuck to their demand for Rs 5 million.
The impasse between the RSS and the insurgent outfit is thus likely to continue since both sides have refused to budge from their respective positions.
In fact, the RSS has launched an agitation against the NLFT and started highlighting the contribution of the four pracharaks to the development of the tribals in remote areas in Tripura. All four RSS activists were frequent visitors to the state over the last two decades and are well known and respected in the area, RSS officials say.
The Sangh had, in fact, accused Christian missionaries operating in Tripura of having instigated the kidnapping by the NLFT, which has a large number of Christians among its cadres. The Church has, however, denied this allegation.
Though security forces in the state have time and again launched rescue operations, the militants have been able to give them the slip every time since Tripura's border with Bangladesh is porous. The insurgents often carry out an operation in Tripura and flee to Chittagong. It was for this reason that Union Home Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani had, during his visit to Tripura on March 26-27, urged the Bangladesh government to find and destroy the hideouts of Indian insurgent groups across the border.
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