The banned Communist Party of India (Maoists) on Tuesday said the missing Cobra Battalion jawan was in its captivity and asked the state government to appoint interlocutors for his safe release. Stating that the ultras have also lost at least five of their members in the Bijapur gunbattle in which 22 security personnel were killed over the weekend, the Maoists said “they were compelled to retaliate to save their land, pride and lives”. Police are verifying the authenticity of the statement. The Chhattisgarh police has been claiming the number of casualties on Maoists’ side is much higher number.
The statement came a day after Union Home minister Amit Shah visited Chhattisgarh in the aftermath of the deadly encounter in Tarrem and promised to intensify the fight against the Maoists. The home minister and senior BJP leader said that those abandoning arms are welcome for talks but if they have arms in hands “we can’t help”.
Terming Shah’s remarks as an assurance to capitalists, they said they had to retaliate to save their “‘jal, jungle, zameen, izzat and pran’ (resources, dignity and lives).”
“As many as 2,000 police personnel had reached near Jiragudem village to execute a major attack (on Saturday). To thwart them, PLGA (Peoples’ Liberation Guerilla Army) retaliated during which 24 security personnel were killed and 31 others injured. We have caught a policeman (CoBRA commando) at the spot while others escaped,” said a statement purportedly written by Maoists and being circulated on social media.
Urging the state government to name mediators for ensuring release of the captive jawan, the outlawed outfit said till then, he will be in our “safety captivity”. Constable Rakeshwar Singh Manhas of the 210th CoBRA battalion, an elite unit of CRPF, has been missing ever since the Maoists laid the ambush along the Bijapur-Sukma border on Saturday. On Monday, some journalists had received calls from unidentified callers claiming Manhas was in the Maoists’ custody.
The statement said the Reds were always open to a dialogue but it is the government which has to offer a conducive atmosphere for the same. “Stopping things like gathering of police forces, camps, assaults and atrocities could pave the way for a dialogue,” it said.
The two-page statement was issued in the name of Vikalp, spokesperson of the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DKSZC) of Maoists. It said, “Four ‘PLGA warriors’ — Odi Sunni, Padaam Lakhma, Kowasi Badru and Nupo Suresh — sacrificed their lives in the gun battle but we can’t retrieve body of Sunni. Three have been laid to rest in accordance with traditional rituals.” It also mentioned the death of another unnamed member of the outfit. The Maoists said prior to the encounter, one Madvi Sukkal of Jiragudem village was killed and the incident was falsely represented as an ultra being killed in the firing, adding the forces have killed close to 150 villagers.
Stating that general policemen were not their enemies, the Maoists regretted their deaths in the gunfight, adding the ultras had only retaliated in self defence leading to the death of the security personnel.
They further claimed that they have seized 14 weapons, over 2,000 cartridges and other equipment in the gunfight and also released a picture of the same.
Tribal activist Soni Sori has appealed to the ultras to release the jawan if he is in their captivity. “If they delay releasing the jawan, then I will head towards the encounter site on Wednesday and will try to talk to them (Maoists) to free him,” Sori said.
Manhas was part of a squad that had gone for an anti-Naxal operation on Friday night in the jungles on the Bijapur and Sukma border. On Saturday, the gunfight broke out between security forces and ultras between Tekalguda and Jonaguda villages in which 22 troopers were killed and 31 others injured.
Out of the 22, the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) lost eight personnel, including seven CoBRA commandos and one jawan from its Bastariya battalion, eight from the DRG and six from the Special Task Force.
(With PTI inputs)