Days after CRPF’s Rakeshwar Manhas was allegedly abducted by the CPI (Maoist), Bastar IG P Sundar Raj has confirmed that efforts are on to secure his release and the government is hopeful of positive developments this week. “Very hopeful that he will be released soon, perhaps in a couple of days, and no harm will be brought to him,” Sundar Raj told News18.
He argued that since Maoists have already acknowledged his custody and also released a picture of him, it is now highly unlikely that he will be harmed. “It will show them in very bad light, cruel, if they harm him now,” Raj said.
MHA officials also told News18 that while no official emissary has been appointed by the Centre, efforts are on at the local level to secure the release of the COBRA commando. The officer also confirmed that authentic information has been received that Manhas has not suffered any bullet injuries. CRPF DG Kuldiep Singh had told News18 that Manhas’s buddy commando had last seen him sit down and complain of feeling unwell when Saturday’s encounter was on.
The photographs released by Maoists on Wednesday shows him in good health but his family claimed the photo was old. “We are treating the photo as authentic. There is also confirmation of his wellbeing,” a Chhattisgarh police officer said.
He added that so far no demands have been made by Naxals to return the hostage. In the past, they have sought a halt in anti-Naxal operations, release of arrested Naxals and assurance that no further police camps will be made, when abductions of government officials Alex Paul Menon and Vineet Krishnan, and a Canadian national took place.
“This situation is different. It is not comparable with kidnapping of Alex Paul Menon or Vineet Krishnan or the Canadian national because then it was either a planned kidnapping, or a foreign government was involved…,” a police officer involved in the rescue plan told News18.
Officers in the security grid acknowledge that the hostage crisis has altered the response of the government to the Bijapur encounter. “It is true that our response to the Tarrem encounter would have been different if this hostage situation had not arisen,” a Chhattisgarh police officer told News18. DG CRPF, in his interview to News18, had also said the presence of Manhas in Naxal custody will have to be factored in when counter operations are planned.
However, both state and central police officers said the kidnapping may not have been a planned one.
Meanwhile, there are reports that Madvi Hidma, the suspected mastermind of the ambush, could have moved further inside the territory he controls around Purvathi — towards the Andhra border.