A photograph of CoBRA commando Rakeshwar Singh Manhas, who was allegedly abducted by Naxals on April 3, is being widely circulated on social media. The photo shows him sitting in a hut, and is believed to have been released by the Naxals allegedly took him captive after a gun battle in the Bastar region of Chhattisgarh, in which 22 security personnel lost their lives and 31 were injured. Manhas's daughter on April 4 released a video urging the Maoists to release her father. “Please, free my father,” pleaded the five-year-old in her video.
In this photograph, Manhas, a commando with the 210th CoBRA battalion of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), is seen sitting in a hut alone. When asked about this photograph, Inspector General of Police (Bastar range) Sundarraj P told PTI on Wednesday, "We are closely monitoring the situation. All best possible efforts are being made to secure the safe return of the jawan.”
On Tuesday, the outlawed CPI (Maoist) had issued a statement in Hindi saying its cadres had abducted Manhas from the site of the ambush and demanded that the Chhattisgarh government appoint mediators to ensure his safe release. A two-page statement reportedly issued by Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DSZC) of the CPI (Maoists) said the abducted jawan "will be safe in their custody" and would be handed over to the police after mediation.
The state government is yet to react to the demand raised by the Maoists. The Maoists, however, had not raised any formal demands for the release of the commando. Police had said the authenticity of the statement was being verified.
In a bid to obtain leads on the whereabouts of Manhas, police are carrying out searches and also contacting local villagers, social organisations, public representatives and journalists, an officer had said on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, tribal activist Soni Sori has left for the encounter site on Wednesday to appeal to Naxals to release the abducted jawan. She said that the government should have ensured the release of the jawan.
Manhas was part of a squad that had gone for an anti-Naxal operation in the jungles on the Bijapur and Sukma border on the night of April 2, hours before the deadly ambush. On April 3, 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 of its 'Bastariya' battalion, eight from the DRG and six from the Special Task Force.
(With PTI inputs)