The abducted commando was handed over to local villagers.
The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) commando who was abducted by the Maoists after the April 3 encounter at Tarrem in Chattisgarh’s Sukma was released on Thursday.
On the request of the Chattisgarh police, social activists Dharampal Saini, 91, Tellam Boraiah and seven journalists secured the release.
The commando, Rakeshwar Singh Minhas is from the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) of the CRPF, a unit specially trained for operations in Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected areas. Recalling the events leading to Mr. Minhas’ release, Bijapur-based journalist Ganesh Mishra told The Hindu that he first received a WhatsApp call from a Maoist leader on April 5 confirming that Mr. Minhas was in their custody.
“The caller (Maoist leader) said that they found Minhas in an unconscious state on April 3, they said he was safe. The next day they called again and said that he will be released in two days. They demanded that a team of mediators be appointed on behalf of the government. I contacted the police,” Mr. Mishra said.
He added that the police roped in Dharampal Saini, who was awarded Padmashri in 1995 for educating tribal girls and Ms Boraiah, leader of the Gondwana community, to speak to the Maoists.
A senior woman cadre of the Maoists, area commander of the Pamed area, led the talks with Mr. Saini and Ms. Boraiah.
Mr. Mishra said that they were asked to reach a village at Bijapur-Sukma border, over 400 kilometre from State Capital Raipur.
“We left Bijapur at 5 am Thursday on motorcycles and reached the location at 9 am. After waiting for more than five hours, around 60-70 Maoists arrived with the commando. His hands were tied. The two mediators spoke to the Maoists for an hour, the commando was released in the presence of the villagers. The woman leader told us that the commando was being released on humanitarian grounds without any condition,” Mr. Mishra, who contributes news report to various organisations said.
He said that the Maoist leader asserted that they did not harm the commando as he was found in an unconscious state and it would have been against “battle ethics.”
The Maoists said that the commando was treated for dehydration and was in good health now. The other journalists who were roped in were Mukesh Chandrakar, Raja Rathore, Shankar and three others.
On April 6, the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) released a statement where it demanded that the State government announce a mediator for the release of the commando.
On April 7the Maoists released a photograph of Mr. Minhas where he was seen sitting under the shade of a hut in his combat clothes.
Sundarraj P., Inspector General, Chattisgarh Police said in a statement that around 4.30 pm, the abducted commando returned safely to Tarrem Police Station along with the facilitators, who went to the jungle to trace his location. “The jawan is being admitted to Basaguda field hospital for medical examination and treatment,” Mr. Sundarraj said.
When asked on what basis did the police zero in on the two social activists, Mr. Sunndarraj told The Hindu, “all we can say that they were successful in securing their release along with the media persons. The commando was not blindfolded when he was brought but his hands were tied. It is a typical modus operandi of the Maoists to assemble villagers during events like this.”
A joint team of Chattisgarh Police comprising the District Reserve Guard (DRG) and Special Task Force (STF) along with various teams of the CRPF proceeded for a combing operation in south Bastar on April 2. The region is said to be the stronghold of the Maoists and one of the worst LWE affected areas. On April 3, when the troops were returning, the last group was attacked by Maoists killing 22 security personnel and injuring 31 others. The Maoists also looted 14 weapons, over 2,000 rounds of ammunition, and other items belonging to the security personnel.