Declare Names of Mediators for Release of Abducted Jawan: Maoists
In a statement, the Maoists said the Bijpaur attack that martyred 22 security personnel was a ‘counter-attack’.
The Communist Party of India (Maoists) released a statement on Tuesday, 6 April, clarifying that a jawan named Rakeshwar Singh Manhas has been abducted by them after the ambush that martyred 22 security personnel in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur. He added that the soldier is safe and will be released after the government declares names of the mediators for negotiation.
In the statement accessed by The Quint, the Maoists said that their fight is not with the security personnel, and they were "pained" by the deaths of the personnel killed in the 3 April attack.
The outfit claimed that they were “retaliating” to the attack launched by the forces at the behest of the Modi-Shah government.
“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 said on Tuesday.
As per news agency ANI, locals along with the family members of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) jawan Rakeshwar Singh Manhas blocked the Jammu-Akhnoor highway on 7 April demanding his release.
Manhas’ wife and mother have alleged that the Centre and Chhattisgarh government is not taking any action to bring back Manhas.
What the Letter Said
The letter, undersigned by spokesperson Vikalp, alleged that a force of 2,000 personnel led by Bastar IG P Sunderraj had launched an attack on villages across the Bijapur district.
The outfit alleged that these operations have been spearheaded by Home Minister Amit Shah and other senior officers across Naxal-dominated states and districts.
Alleging vandalism, loot, imprisonment of people and violation of women, the letter claimed that more than 150 people have been killed under this ‘operation’ by the government since November 2020.
“On one hand, such killings have risen and on the other, roads are being constructed for better facilitation to police camps and police posts, which is being portrayed as ‘developmental work,’” the statement said, adding that Maoists are being portrayed as ‘anti-development’.
The outfit claimed that 2,000 security personnel came to attack Jeeragudem village on 3 April, following which the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) “counter-attacked".
It further said that while the Maoists have no beef with the forces as they are being made spacepgoats by the Modi government.
The outfit also released the names and photographs of slain militants – Odi Sunny, Padam Lakhma, Kowasi badru, Nupa Suresh, and Madvi Sukka.
“We are ready for talks, but the government isn’t honest,” the outfit said, adding that rather than uniting forces and the Maoists to come together for talks, the government was running an operation against the latter on the ground level and not creating a conducive environment for talks by orders from Shah.
The outfit explicitly blamed Shah, Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel, Chhattisgarh Home Minister Tamradhwaj Sahu, Special DG Naxal Ops Ashok Juneja, IG Bastar Sundarraj P for the attack on 3 April.
What the CRPF Says
The CRPF told The Quint that all information regarding Manhas’ abduction is what they have received from the media and that there is no direct contact between the force and the Maoists.
“No one has informed the CRPF, nor has anyone approached the CRPF to claim that (Manhas is being held hostage). The possibility of abduction is not denied. All efforts at all levels are being taken to trace him,” CRPF spokesperson Dalip Ambesh told The Quint.
Another CRPF official, who did not wish to be named, said: “We are getting all information from local media only. No Naxal is contacting us. Not just the CRPF but other security forces are also searching for the jawan. We have not got any proof or evidence to establish that our jawan is in their custody or if they have (Naxals) contacted us directly. We are not ruling out abduction but currently there is no communication going on between CRPF and the Naxals.”
Bastar Inspector General (IG) Sundarraj P, however, confirmed the authenticity of the letter while speaking to ANI.
“We have received a letter from the Maoists and have a brief idea about him. We have confirmed the authentication of the letter. We are closely looking into the matter,” he said.
No Confirmation, Says CRPF DG
Meanwhile, speaking to NDTV, CRPF DG Kuldeep Singh said that while there was no confirmation, 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 the central and the state governments over the request for a mediator stated in the letter and that they would proceed as per directions from the authorities.
Speaking about the operation that had been launched on Saturday, Singh stressed that despite the damage the troops had sustained, it could not be termed a failure but was, in fact, successful.
When asked how Hidma, the wanted leader of the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) who is suspected to have led the 400-strong group of Naxals in the attack, had once again evaded capture, Singh said, “But it won’t happen every time.”
He said that Hidma’s tactic was to deceive and questioned why he was leading attacks in the forest and not in Sukma or Raipur for instance.
Singh added that those behind the attack would not be spared.
Who Is the Abducted Jawan?
Rakeshwar Singh Manhas is a COBRA battalion jawan, who is a resident of Jammu and Kashmir.
Manhas’s daughter released a video on Sunday, 4 April, 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.
After the release of the statement on Tuesday, it has become clear that Manhas is being held hostage by the PLGA Battalion number 1, headed by commander Madvi Hidma.
(With inputs from Avdhesh Mallick from Chhattisgarh.)
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