Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Oct 2:
Odisha born biochemical engineer Prabhas Samal, who was abducted and subsequently released by suspected militatnts of terror group ISIS in Libya last month, returned to the state today.
“Rakhe Hari ta mare kie, mare Hari ta rakhe kie,” loosely translating into ‘what can go wrong with god by your side’ was the first reaction of Prabhas after reaching Biju Patnaik International Airport here.
Narrating his ordeal during captivity, he clarified that he was unsure about the group that kidnapped him and confirmed that he was not tortured.
“I really don’t know about who kidnapped me and why they released only me. I can tell you that I was not tortured in anyway. I spent the first day in agony; however, from the second day I had hope for release and resigned myself to fate,” he said.
“After the release from the captors, couple of locals helped me reach the Indian embassy and the staff at the embassy there did their very best to get me back in India. I have forgotten the pain of captivity after seeing my relatives and the warm reception I got here,” added Prabhas.
He left for his cousin’s place at Patia here straight from the airport where he was given a warm welcome amidst an emotionally charged atmosphere by his relatives.
Notably, he had reached India earlier; however, his whereabouts had been kept a secret by the state agencies due to unknown reasons. Even his family had been able to contact him or vice-versa. His return was confirmed yesterday, after public broadcaster Doordarshan aired an interview with him.
In the interview with Doordarshan, Samal thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, NSA Ajit Doval, the Indian Government, and the Ministry of External Affairs for his release from captivity. He said he was deeply touched by the support and personal interest taken by the PM and the Indian government for his release.
“I was deeply traumatised; every moment was a moment between life and death. It is only after coming here that I realised that the Prime minister, the defence secretary and the whole security set up was so closely involved in saving me,” Samal said in the interview.
The man from Kendrapara said he had never imagined that something like this could happen to him. “I was working in a hospital in Libya as a biochemical engineer since 2002. We had started feeling that the conditions were deteriorating since 2011. But we had never thought we would be targeted as we worked as health workers. But groups raided our quarters and blinded us and took us hostage,” he told Doordarshan.
On the role of ISIS, he said; “We never thought we will be harmed because we were as health workers doing social work. We were a bit like the Red Cross. Those who abducted us might be related to ISIS or related organisation as the area is dominated by them.”
Samal said that he was helped by two locals who dropped him near the Indian embassy in Tripoli. “I was helped by two locals who helped me reach near the Indian consulate; I was helped by everyone in the consulate to reach India,” Samal said.
Having seen him on Doordarshan, his family members in Odisha in Rourkela were ecstatic yesterday. “Now that I have seen him on Doordarshan, I can’t wait to see him in person,” Prabhas’ elder brother Bibhu Padarabinda Nayak said in Rourkela.
“Today afternoon when I was working in my office, at around 1 am, I received a call in my mobile from my brother in-law, who stays in Keonjhar. He told me that Prabhas has been released and has already reached at New Delhi. The news of his return was being telecast in TV. I rushed to TV room of my office; but the programme was over by that time. I immediately contacted my wife Manasi and informed her about Prabhas’s arrival in Delhi and asked her to watch the TV for confirmation. Thereafter I rushed to my house and watched DD news at 2 pm in which I saw my brother. After that we were convinced that Prabhas had indeed arrived in New Delhi and we informed my mother, who had not been informed about the abduction of Prabhas,” an ecstatic Nayak said.
Prabhash, however, has not yet made any contact with his family members after his arrival at New Delhi, Bibhu said.
“After reaching at Delhi, Prabhas has not contacted us so far and we do not know the reason of same,” he said.
“But we are sure he will soon arrive here in Rourkela and meet all of us,” Bibhu said.
Nayak, who works in the office of the Rourkela Superintendent of Police (SP), said his mother was so overjoyed with the news she kept kissing the TV.
“I came to know about the incident only today and could not believe that such a major development has happened and I was unaware,” said Shanti Lata Nayak, mother of Pravash Ranjan. “I thank God for the safe release of my son. I am now eagerly waiting for his arrival,” she added.
Although he is the original brother of Bibhu, Prabhas was adopted as son by his maternal uncle and accordingly his surname has been changed to Samal.
After escaping from his abductors, Prabhas had called up his sister-in-law Manasi in Rourkela briefly. But since there was no word from him or the MEA in the days that followed, the entire family was on tenterhooks.
Prabhas worked as a hospital technician while his wife lived in Tripoli 500 km away. He used regularly call home but had made no contact since August this year.