Raipur/ Jammu: A CRPF jawan, Rakesh Singh Manhas, who went missing in the April 3 Maoist ambush on security forces on the Sukma-Bijapur border in Chhattisgarh may have been held hostage by the Maoists, police said. Singh’s family has launched an emotional appeal seeking his release.
“Please, release my father,” pleaded five-year-old Shragvi, the daughter of the commando. This is all the sobbing child could utter as she wiped away her tears.
A phone call from purported Maoists came to a reporter of a local news channel on Monday claiming that the missing commando, belonging to the COBRA (Commando Battalion for Resolute Action) of the CRPF, has been “captured” by them and was “safe in their custody.”
The reporter said he had received the call from a ‘general number’ which Maoists use to communicate with the media at 11.30 am. “The caller said the jawan will be released at the appropriate time and informed me that I will be updated about it from time to time,” Raja Rathore, the local correspondent of a Hindi news channel, told this newspaper from Sukma on phone.
Rathore said he passed on the information to the family members of the jawan, a native of Jammu, in the presence of a couple of local CRPF officers on Monday.
“The jawan’s wife and mother have appealed to the Maoists not to harm him and release him without any delay. The jawan’s five-year-old daughter has also made an appeal to the Naxals to release her father safely,” Rathore said.
The CRPF as well as the security forces have maintained silence on the issue. “We have no information if he has been held hostage by Maoists,” a senior CRPF officer here told this newspaper. “We are trying to locate the missing jawan,” a senior police officer posted in Bastar said, unwilling to be quoted. Sources said a back channel effort has begun by the security establishment to secure release of the jawan from Maoist captivity.
Meanwhile, ‘Jailbandi Rihai Samiti’ (committee for release of undertrials), an outfit floated to secure release of undertrials facing charges of involvement in Maoists activities in Bastar, on Monday demanded the release of the jawan immediately without causing him any harm.
”We came to know about the attack and that he went missing from news channels. Nobody from the government or the CRPF informed us,” Meenu, Singh’s wife, told reporters at her residence in Barnai on the Jammu-Akhnoor road.
She said she made frantic efforts to reach out to the CRPF headquarters in Jammu. “I was told that there is nothing we can share with you. Once we get a clear picture, we will come to you,” Meenu said the officers told her.
With her daughter in her lap, Meenu said an officer also visited her house and repeated the assurance. She said she had last spoken to her husband at 9.30 pm on Friday when he was leaving for duty.