NEW DELHI: Chhattisgarh police have begun efforts to secure the release of abducted CRPF CoBRA personnel Rajeshwar Singh Manhas and are said to have finalised intermediaries for opening a channel of communication with the Maoists for the purpose of his safe transfer from the custody of his captors.
A source told TOI security agencies are “very hopeful” about Maoists handing over the commando unharmed as they are purportedly keen to project a “human” face after having justified the killing of 22 securitymen as a “retaliato ry strike” they were forced to carry out to neutralise the massive anti-Naxal “attack” .
Chhattisgarh police have roped in ‘independent’ emissaries to open a dialogue with Maoists holding Manhas and they may set off on Thursday, TOI has learnt. On Wednesday, the CPI (Maoist) put out a photo of Manhas in which he appeared to be fine.
The emissaries, said to have worked with the Maoists in similar situations previously, are likely to travel to the interiors and discuss the commando’s unconditional release.
“Past precedents indicate that Maoists may agree to free the hostage without any demand. So far, they have not communicated any conditions. It is possible that he may be handed over on Thursday,” apolice official said.
The official cited the case of Canadian national John Salazak who was detained by the Maoists in Sukma area of Chhattisgarh in 2017 for allegedly “inadvertently” entering “their area”.
Chhattisgarh police, which was urged by then external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj as well as the Canadian embassy to ensure his safe return, had used emissaries who convinced Maoists to hand him over. While the energies of the counter-Naxal forces, including Chhattisgarh police, are focused on securing the safe release of the abducted CoBRA personnel, a source indicated that the abduction may have given a breather to the Maoist attackers from a retaliatory strike.
“The PLGA-1 attackers led by Hidma may have bought time to cross interstate junctions and to review its strategies to preempt an imminent retaliatory strike by the security forces,” said a senior IPS officer.