(This was originally posted in The Print by Ananya Bhardwaj)
New Delhi: A personnel of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) who has been missing since Saturday’s ambush in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur, has been taken hostage by the Maoists who carried out the attack, ThePrint has learnt.
The constable hailing from Jammu and identified as Rakeshwar Singh Manhas is alive but with the Maoist cadres, sources in the security establishment told ThePrint.
According to the source, the Maoist leadership sent a message to the force saying that Manhas is “alive” and will not be harmed. The message further said that he will “subsequently be released”. “One personnel who could not be traced is a hostage of the Maoists. We received the information a while ago and we have been assured that he will be kept safely. The force will ensure that he is released safely and brought back,” a source said.
‘In talks with Maoists, doing our best to rescue jawan’
When asked if there were any demands made by the Maoists for Manhas’s release, the source said, “We are in talks. Cannot divulge more details on the same. We are doing our best.”
Close to 2,000 personnel belonging to the Special Task Force (STF), District Reserve Guard (DRG), District Force of the Chhattisgarh Police, the CRPF and its elite CoBRA unit, had started a joint operation on 2 April after receiving intelligence inputs about Maoists in Silger and Bodaguda area. The inputs specifically noted the presence of Hidma, the commander of the lethal Battalion 1 of the Maoists, in the area.
The encounter began around noon Saturday. The personnel, sources said, were carrying out the last leg of area domination at the Tekulagudem hillock when they were “caught off guard” and were struck by over 300 rockets.
According to one of the sources, the ambush could have been a retaliation to the CRPF’s plans of setting up a camp at Silger, which is a Maoist stronghold.
Another source in the CRPF said the Maoists first used “indigenous rocket launchers” to attack the security team. As the personnel rushed down the hillock to create a helipad for a quick evacuation, the Maoists struck again, this time with an LMG (Light Machine Gun), sources said. Residents from the villages also allegedly joined the attack, cornering the personnel.
Trapped under a hail of bullets from three sides, the security team found it difficult to escape to safety, resulting in 22 deaths.