CoBRA Jawan’s Release: What Role Did the 11 Mediators Play?

It was an 11-member-team of mediators that brought Manhas out of the jungles. Here’s how.

3 min read

CoBRA jawan Rakeshwar Singh Manhas, abducted amid a battle that ensued between Maoists and security forces at the Bijapur-Sukma border area of Chhattisgarh, in which twenty-two jawans lost their lives, was released after six days in captivity on Thursday, 8 April.

The Maoists reportedly released Manhas without any conditions and on humanitarian grounds. While the central and state government are believed to have put in joint efforts for the jawan’s release, it was an 11-member-team of mediators that brought Manhas out of the jungles.

The team comprised:

  • Social activist Dharampal Saini
  • Gondwana Samaaj leader Telam Boraiah
  • Ex-Sarpanch and tribal leader Sukhmati Apka
  • Social leader Guru Rudra Khare
  • Journalist Ganesh Mishra (Bijapur)
  • Journalist Mukesh Chandrakar (Bijapur)
  • Journalist Yukesh Chandrakar (Bijapur)
  • Journalist Ranjan Dash (Bijapur)
  • Journalist Chetan Kapewar (Bijapur)
  • Journalist K Shankar (Sukma)
  • Journalist Ravi Runje (Sukma)

A Phone Call And a Request

“I received a call from Maoists through an unknown number and was told that the missing jawan is with them and will be released in the next two days. They said that he was injured and was being treated for his injuries,” journalist Ganesh Mishra, informed in an interview with Brut.

“They did say that the jawan was safe and will be released. But if the jawan suffers any harm in the process, they said, it won’t be theirs (Maoist’s) fault, it will be the IG’s.”   
Ganesh Mishra, journalist

Mishra, on his part, asked the Maoist leader to release a photo or video of the jawan to confirm that he was safe and sound, to which he agreed.

On Wednesday, 7 April, a photograph of Manhas sitting in a hut, still clad in his combat clothes, was shared.

CRPF commando in Maoist captivity.
CRPF commando in Maoist captivity.

Mishra further told The Hindu that the caller (a Maoist leader) said that they had found Manhas in an unconscious state. Mishra also said that the Maoists demanded that a team of mediators be set up on behalf of the government, which he relayed to the police.

The police then brought in 91-year-old Dharampal Saini, who had won a Padma Shri in 1995 for educating tribal girls, and Gondwana Samaaj leader Telam Boraeya.

Bringing Manhas Back

On Tuesday, the Maoists also put out a press note demanding that the government announce a list of interlocutors. However, as per The Indian Express, while the government was still in the process of a discussion, the team of 11 set out to receive the jawan on his release.

“We left Bijapur at 5 am Thursday on motorcycles and reached the location at 9 am,” Mishra told The Hindu.

“After waiting for more than five hours, around 60-70 Maoists arrived with the commando. His hands were tied. The two mediators spoke to the Maoists for an hour, the commando was released in the presence of the villagers.”   
Ganesh Mishra, journalist

Mishra told The Hindu that a senior woman cadre of the Maoists led the talks with Saini and Boraiah.

The woman leader informed them that the jawan was being released on humanitarian grounds and without any condition. She also reportedly asserted that they did not harm the commando as he was found in an unconscious state and to harm him then would have been against “battle ethics”.

Manhas, the Maoists informed the mediators, was treated by them for dehydration and was in good health now.

The Release

Visuals of the CoBRA jawan being released show Maoists removing the ropes from his hands and untying him in the presence of a very large group of people.

Subsequently, the commander, as per reports, thanked the village and said that he had not been harmed in captivity.

Presently, Manhas is in quarantine and is not allowed to speak to anyone.

Who Is Dharampal Saini?

Expressing his relief on the safe release of Manhas, Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel extended his greetings to the mediators for providing their support in his release.

Among the mediators, 91-year-old Saini, fondly known as Bastar’s Gandhi, has also once again received great acclaim for helping bring back Manhas.

The fact that he was successful in bringing a CobBRA commando safely back, is indicative of the fact that everyone across Bastar, from civilians to Naxals, respects Saini.

Formerly a disciple of Vinoba Bhave, he spent many years in Bastar helping educate and train tribal girls. For his work in this area he received a Padma Shri, among other laurels.

But Saini’s laurels and acclaim stretch beyond the Padma Shri. Referring to Saini as “Badshah of Bastar”, The Week dubbed him Man of The Year, 2012.

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

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