CoBRA Jawan Abducted by Maoists in Bijapur Attack Released 

Manhas is a CoBRA battalion jawan, hailing from Jammu and Kashmir.

4 min read
CoBRA jawan Rakeshwar Singh Manhas, allegedly abducted by Naxals during the attack in Bijapur on 3 April, has been released.

Commando Battalions for Resolute Action (CoBRA) jawan Rakeshwar Singh Manhas, allegedly abducted by Naxals during the attack in Bijapur on 3 April, has been released after five days in custody, Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) sources told The Quint on Thursday, 8 April.

Manhas is a resident of Jammu and Kashmir.

The jawan was released due to joint efforts of the central and state government officials, a government press release said. Manhas was taken to the CRPF camp in Bijapur after his release.

Happiest Day of My Life, Says Wife

“Today is the happiest day of my life. I always remained hopeful of his return. I thank the government,” Manhas’ wife Meenu said, speaking to ANI. She added that she had received an official communication of his safe return and that he was in good health.

“We have safely brought him back. He will undergo a medical examination by a doctor here,” Bijapur SP Kamalochan Kashyap told ANI.

Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has also expressed his relief over the safe release of Manhas. CM Baghel extended his greetings to the mediators for providing their support in the release of the abducted jawan, a press release said.

Released With Help of Committee of Mediators

Manhas was released with the help of a eleven-member committee of mediators including social worker Padmashree Dharampal Saini, Gondwana Samaaj leader Telam Boraeya and female representative Hemla Sukhmati as well as four local journalists Ganesh Mishra, Mukesh Chandrakar, Ranjan Dash and Chetan Kapewar.

The 11-member team was earlier in talks with Maoists for the safe release of the jawan.

Before being freed, Manhas was presented and trialled as a captive in the Jan Adalat (Kangaroo Court) in the presence of hundreds of villagers, surrounded by 50 armed Maoists in the jungles of Junneguda under Tarrem police limits, a journalist part of negotiating committee said.

However, the details of the exact location of the place where the Jan Adalat was held have not been revealed due to security reasons. The Kangaroo court was reportedly held in the morning hours on Thursday.

After his release, Manhas was brought to Tarrem CRPF camp — the area where the encounter took place.

IG Bastar Sundarraj P said in a press note that Manhas had been brought back safely to Tarrem Police Station along with the facilitators who went inside the jungle to trace his location.

The jawan is being admitted to Basaguda field hospital for medical examination and treatment, the IG further added.

Maoists Claim Abduction

The Communist Party of India (Maoists) on Tuesday had released a statement on claiming that Manhas had been abducted by them after the ambush that martyred 22 security personnel in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur. The group added that the soldier was safe and will be released after the government declares names of the mediators for negotiation.

“The government must first declare the names of the mediators, following which the personnel kept hostage by us will be released. Till then, he is safe under our security,” the statement by the CPI (Maoists) Dandkaranya Special Zonal committee had said on Tuesday.

Manhas’s daughter released a video on Sunday, urging the Maoists to release her father. The young girl can be heard saying, “Mere papa ko chhod do (Release my father).”

The video was released after the message went viral on social media that Manhas had been captured by the Maoists.

What the CRPF Said

The CRPF had told The Quint that they had received all information regarding Manhas’ abduction from the media and that there was no direct contact between the force and the Maoists.

On Wednesday, CRPF DG Kuldeep Singh told NDTV said that while there was no confirmation of Manhas having been abducted by the Maoists, the force was moving ahead on the basis of the letter since there was no other information available.

“Even if the information is wrong, we are taking it as correct and moving forward,” Singh said.

He added that the CRPF had approached both central and state governments to request for a mediator as stated in the letter and that they would proceed as per directions from the authorities.

The Attack

At least 22 security personnel were killed and around 31 injured in a shoot-out with Naxals along the border of Sukma and Bijapur districts in Chhattisgarh on Saturday, 3 April – the worst such Naxal attack in four years.

Out of the total 22 fatalities, eight were from the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), eight from the District Reserve Guard (DRG) and six from the Special Task Force (STF), PTI reported.

Twenty-three of the injured personnel were admitted to a Bijapur hospital, and the remaining were taken to a Raipur hospital, according to ANI. Out of the 31 injured personnel, 16 belong to the CRPF.

How Did It Happen?

A contingent of 1,500 troops had launched a search and destroy operation along the border of Bijapur and Sukma on Saturday, after getting inputs about Naxal presence in the area. There were also inputs about the presence of wanted Naxal leader Madvi Hidma.

“Inputs were received that Naxals were carrying out their Tactical Counter Offensive Campaign (TCOC) in the Jagargunda-Jongaguda-Tarrem axis, and hence security teams from six camps were deputed to intercept them,” an officer told PTI.

“The Maoists drew the forces into an ambush with heavy gunfire soon after, and helicopter sorties were requisitioned to evacuate the injured personnel,” a senior security officer told PTI.

The contingent was ambushed by a group of around 400 Maoists, possibly led by wanted leader Hidma of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA).

(With inputs from Avdhesh Mallick from Raipur, and ANI and PTI.)

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