Debra (West Midnapore), July 25: The policeman kidnapped by Maoists near Lalgarh yesterday was served fish for dinner and freed this morning, and caught a bus home.
Assistant sub-inspector Dipak Pramanik denied being beaten but his arms and fingers showed injury marks and bloodstains — perhaps from the merciless beatings after two early escape bids in the jungles that eyewitnesses had mentioned yesterday.
Piecing together the versions of various sources, however, it appears the policeman may have been close to death last night — with a kangaroo court held to decide his fate — before earning a reprieve thanks to the efforts of his family and friends.
Its such a relief to be back. At one point last night, I thought the Maoists would kill me, Pramanik, who reached his home in Debra at 9.45am, said.
The first four-five hours after the kidnapping were extremely tense. But they treated me well, even giving me a meal of fish and rice.
The ASI had been travelling from Pirakata to the Bhimpur police camp, where he is posted, in a truck yesterday afternoon when the vehicle was stopped at Pidrakuli by a group that included Maoists. The kidnapping appeared to be an on-the-spot decision after the rebels realised he was a policeman.
Pramanik, who spent the night as a hostage in a village in the Pidrakuli jungles, said: Initially, I was certain I would be killed but as the night wore on I could sense some confusion among the Maoists. Around 10 at night, I was told not to worry because I would not be killed.
About 5am today, a motorbike dropped him at Dherua from where he caught a bus to Midnapore town and then another to his home.
District superintendent of police Manoj Verma said: We did not conduct any negotiations with the Maoists. They released him out of fear of police action.
Sources close to the Pramanik family, however, said they had contacted Chhatradhar Mahato, leader of the Maoist-backed Peoples Committee Against Police Atrocities, who requested the rebels to spare the ASI.
Mahato told the Maoists that there were many committee supporters among those who had stopped the truck yesterday, and if any harm came to Pramanik the committee would be blamed, a source said.
He also told them that if Pramanik was killed, the police reprisal would be severe and the committees supporters would bear the brunt.
However, Maoist leader Bikash, who is overseeing the operations in Lalgarh, claimed Pramanik had been freed because he was never on our target list.
He is a small-time policeman who simply carries out the orders of his superiors, Bikash told The Telegraph.
Killing him would have sent a wrong message to the people of Lalgarh who are supporting our movement.
Bikash said the Maoists set up a village court to decide the ASIs fate.
We spoke to our leadership and a section of our well-wishers. It was agreed that by sparing Pramanik we would also gain the goodwill of the polices lower ranks. After all, Pramanik was unarmed and he was not engaged in a battle with the Maoists.