The CRPF commando taken hostage by the Maoists after Saturday’s massacre of 22 security personnel in Chhattisgarh was released on Thursday afternoon.
Rakeshwar Singh Manhas, Jammu and Kashmir resident and member of the CRPF’s elite Cobra unit, was freed deep inside the forests in the presence of a team of 11 “facilitators”, made up mostly of local journalists and social workers.
The facilitators, who had arrived on motorbikes, took Manhas to the CRPF’s Terrem police camp on the Bijapur-Sukma border, near the site of the ambush.
“The jawan returned safely to the Terrem camp along with the facilitators around 4.30pm,” a CRPF official in Chhattisgarh said. He said Manhas had undergone a check-up at the Basaguda field hospital.
The Maoists had on Wednesday released a photograph of Manhas and said he was safe.
The picture showed the commando in battle fatigues, sitting on a sheet of blue tarpaulin laid out on the floor of what seemed a makeshift tent of dried leaves and bamboo poles.
Officials said social worker Dharampal Saini and Gelam Boraiya, chief of the tribal body Gondwana Samaj, led the team of facilitators, who included six local journalists.
“They had been talking to the Maoists for the jawan’s safe return,” a security official attached to the Union home ministry said.
In a statement on Thursday night, CRPF director-general Kuldiep Singh said: “On behalf of CRPF, I thank all those who have worked for his safe release. The constable Manhas is in good health and he has been subjected to mandatory detailed medical/health check-up immediately after his release.... He talked to his family members telephonically.”
On Tuesday, the banned CPI (Maoist) had asked the government to pick a fresh mediator for their ongoing secret talks, sources in the security establishment said without elaborating.
Twenty-two jawans were killed and 31 injured in a four-hour gun battle after a team of security personnel apparently walked into a Maoist trap on Saturday.
Sources in the security establishment have alleged an intelligence failure and poor leadership by the CRPF commanders, but Kuldiep has denied any lapses.