Chhattisgarh: Maoists Release Photo of Jawan, Govt Probing Note Asking for Interlocutors

The Maoists have, however, not raised any formal demands for the release of the commando as yet.

New Delhi: The outlawed CPI (Maoists) organisation on Wednesday, released a photograph of CoBRA commando Rakeshwar Singh Manhas, who went missing after the April 3 exchange of fire in Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region.

Manhas was suspected as having been held captive. On Tuesday, the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DSZC) of the banned organisation released a press note asking for interlocutors.

According to a report in the Indian Express, the CoBRA jawan can be seen sitting on a plastic mat reportedly at the Maoist camp.

Constable Rakeshwar Singh Manhas of the 210th CoBRA battalion, an elite unit of CRPF, had gone missing on April 3 following an encounter with armed Maoists in a forest along the border between Bijapur and Sukma districts in Chhattisgarh. As many as 22 security forces personnel were killed and 30 others injured after the ambush.

The Maoists have, however, not raised any formal demands for the release of the commando as yet.

As per reports, local journalists received calls that the jawan was in Maoist custody on Monday. On Tuesday, the Maoists confirmed it. “The government must declare the names of interlocutors. After that, we will release the policeman in our custody. Till then, he will be safe under our security,” said Vikalp, spokesperson of the DSZC, which had been instrumental in executing several deadly attacks in south Bastar, including the Jhiram valley attack in Bastar district on May 25, 2013, in which top Congress leaders of Chhattisgarh unit were killed.

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The Bastar Inspector General however released a statement that described Manhas as a missing person. The statement said that the authenticity of the press note by DSZC was being verified.

“The authenticity of the statement issued by Maoists claiming that they have held hostage the jawan is being verified. Further action will be taken accordingly,” Inspector General of Police (Bastar range) Sundarraj P. told PTI.

Police have been continuously carrying out searches to trace Manhas, and local villagers, social organisations, local public representatives and journalists are also being contacted to locate his whereabouts, the IG said.

The banned outfit said that four of its cadres were killed in the encounter and the body of the slain woman cadre could not be retrieved from the spot. The CPI (Maoist) statement also alleged that 24 security personnel were killed in the encounter.

“As many as 2,000 police personnel had reached near Jiragudem village to execute a major attack (on Saturday). To thwart them, PLGA (Peoples’ Liberation Guerilla Army) retaliated during which 24 security personnel were killed and 31 others injured. We have caught a policeman (CoBRA commando) at the spot while others escaped,” said the DSZC statement being circulated on social media on Tuesday.

The ultras also claimed to have seized 14 weapons, 2,000 cartridges and other materials from the encounter site. The photographs issued with the purported statement shows the looted arms and ammunition.

However, sources in police had said at least 12 Maoists were killed in the gunfight that lasted for over 4 hours.

According to the police, ten weapons, including seven AK-47 rifles, two SLR rifles and one Light Machine Gun (LMG), of the security personnel went missing after the attack.

(With inputs from PTI)