Sukma encounter | CRPF Commando may be in Maoists’ custody

Chhattisgarh DGP Awasthi says police have information from several sources

A commando of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) who was part of the team that was ambushed by the Maoists on April 3 at Tarrem in Chattisgarh’s Sukma is suspected to have been abducted by the Maoists, police said.

Director General of Police, Chhattisgarh, D.M. Awasthi told The Hindu that the police had information from several sources that the commando was with the Maoists.

The commando, identified as Rakeshwar Singh Minhas, belonged to the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action unit (CoBRA) of the CRPF, a unit specially trained for operations in Left Wing Extremism (LWE) affected areas.

“There is no statement by the Maoists yet, but we have information from other sources that the commando is with them. We can say he is safe so far. We are trying to ascertain how he was taken away,” Mr. Awasthi said.

A senior police official said it was possible that the commando ran for cover when a volley of fire came from the Maoists and accidentally moved to their side.

Mr. Manhas’ family in Jammu released a video message appealing for his safe return. His wife Meenu said she last spoke to him around 9.30 pm on April 2 when he told her that he was going for an operation and would return the next day.

The police official said the Maoists were watching the forces. “There were four groups numbering over 400 that left from various camps on April 2 night. When the fourth and the last group reached Tarrem, they were attacked by the Maoists. There were two villages on the way that were empty and the forces should have avoided the route,” said the official.

Another official said there was prior information about the presence of Maoists there since it was one of their core areas. “There were intelligence inputs, but we could not find Maoists at the said location. The security forces were being watched and when the last group moved in, they were attacked,” said the official.

Around two dozen sophisticated weapons used by the security personnel were taken away by the Maoists.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who was on a day-long visit to Chhattisgarh on Monday, addressed the CRPF personnel who were part of the encounter at Tarrem. Speaking to the jawans at Basaguda in South Bastar, Mr. Shah said the government would welcome the Maoists if they surrendered their weapons. But if “they used their weapons, we do not have an option”.

“The encounter lasted over four hours. I am interacting here with the team that fought on April 3. A few years ago, it was difficult to even enter these areas, but that day you entered their homes. We suffered losses, but even they suffered losses. We have been increasing our posts in these areas, in the past two years we have gone in the interior. This is the epicentre of Naxalism and the fight is in its last leg,” Mr. Shah said.

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