Maoists free CoBRA commando after 5 days of captivity

Maoists had grilled him to extract information on the strength of the security forces deployed in the region and the weapons they use

Raipur: The CRPF’s CoBRA commando Rakeshwar Singh Manhas walked free on Thursday evening after spending five days in Maoists' custody.

The jawan of 210 CoBRA battalion who was abducted by Maoists after the April 3 Naxal ambush on security forces in Terram on Sukma-Bijapur border in Chhattisgarh’s south Bastar region was handed over to a four-member emissary team, constituted by the Chhattisgarh government to negotiate his release, at an undisclosed location.

The jawan, with his hands tied, was produced before a "jan adalat" or kangaroo court of Maoists in the presence of scores of armed rebels, local villagers and mediapersons before being set free at 4 pm.

“The jawan has been released by Maoists. He has reached Basaguda camp (of CRPF),” Bijapur district superintendent of police Kamal Lochan Kashyap said.

He was scheduled to be flown to Raipur after his medical checkup, police said.

“As soon as we learnt that the jawan was held hostage by Maoists, we contacted eminent people in the region, social activists and mediapersons to secure his release from Maoist custody,” Mr Kashyap said.

Earlier in the morning, the four-member interlocutor team headed by Padma Shri Dharam Pal Jain left for an undisclosed location in the forest on Sukma-Bijapur border to negotiate the release of the jawan with the Maoists.

“I was contacted by the government to become an interlocutor to negotiate release of the jawan. I left for the appointed place in the morning along with other members of the team and some media persons to secure release of the jawan. I am happy that Naxals kept their promise to release the jawan if approached by government-appointed emissaries,” Mr Jain said.

The other members of the emissary team were local tribal community leader Telam Boraiya, retired teacher Rudra Kere and sarpanch of Surkunda panchayat in Bijapur district, Rukmni Ekka.

With relief writ large on his face, the jawan after his release told reporters, “They (Naxals) treated me well when I was in their custody”.

As soon as he was handed over to the emissaries Mr Manhas contacted his family members in Jammu through the cell phone of a journalist present and informed them that he had been set free and was coming home very soon, a journalist who accompanied the delegation told this newspaper from the spot.

Sources disclosed to this newspaper that the jawan was spotted by local villagers after the April 3 encounter who handed him to the Maoists.

“Maoists had grilled him to extract information on the strength of the security forces deployed in the region and the kinds of weapons they use,” sources said.

Maoist guerillas led by commander of PLGA’s battalion number one Madvi Hidma ambushed a search party of security personnel in Terram area on April 3 killing 22 jawans and injuring 31 others.

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