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Abducted CoBRA commando released by Naxals; family rejoice in Jammu

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New Delhi/Raipur/Jammu: A CoBRA commando abducted by Naxals after the Bijapur ambush in Chhattisgarh on April 03 was released on Thursday with a video showing armed Maoists untying him in the presence of hundreds of villagers, officials said.

Bastar Inspector General of Police Sundarraj P said constable Rakeshwar Singh Manhas of the 210th Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) was freed by the Maoists and he reached the “Tarrem police station safely around 4:30 PM along with the facilitators, who went inside the jungle to trace out his location”.

The CRPF said in a statement that the jawan is in “good health and he has been subjected to mandatory detailed health check-up immediately after his release”.

“His family members have been informed. The constable talked to his family members telephonically (in Jammu),” the Chhattisgarh sector of the force said in a statement.

A state government statement said Manhas was released due to the efforts of social worker Padma Shri Dharampal Saini, Mata Rukmani Ashram Jagdalpur, another person Telam Boraiyya and senior officials of Adivasi Samaj, Bijapur.

It added that local journalists like Ganesh Mishra and Mukesh Chandrakar also played a vital role in the release of the commando.

A state government spokesperson said Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has expressed his happiness over the release of the jawan and thanked those who made it happen.

In a video of the release, at least 2 armed Maoists with their faces covered were seen untying the arms of Manhas from a yellow-coloured rope as hundreds of locals can be seen sitting around.

The mediators and journalists were also present at the spot.

Pictures shared by security officials showed Manhas wearing his green coloured jungle combat dress and standing with at least four “mediators” with a number of locals sitting in the forested background.

Another picture showed the commando riding pillion on a motorbike with a local journalist while an another photo showed a scribe clicking selfie with him.

Manhas, officials said, was later handed over to CRPF’s Deputy Inspector General (Bijapur) Komal Singh at the Basaguda camp.

They said he will be kept at the camp and will soon be put through a “debriefing” session to understand the circumstances as to how he was taken away by the Maoists and what happened with him during the custody.

Officials had said that the ‘buddy’ of Manhas had told officers that the jawan sat down exhausted during the ambush while on their way back to their camp on the fateful day.

A heavy exchange of gunfire is cited as the probable reason for the commando getting detached from his unit and buddy.

The CoBRA is the specialised unit of the CRPF that was raised in 2009 to undertake intelligence-based operations against Maoists and insurgents in the north east.

Twenty-two security personnel were killed while 31 were injured in the deadly ambush that took place on April 3 near the Tekalgudem village along the Bijapur-Sukma district border.

Meanwhile, for the Manhas’ family in Jammu, days of anxious silence gave way to relief and celebration at his house as the news of his release from Maoist captivity broke on Thursday.

Family members and relatives of the commando were moved to tears as they saw visuals of him stepping out of an ambulance on a news channel.

Soon neighbours joined the family in its celebrations, and cheers and chants of “Bharat Mata ki Jai” filled the air. Everyone who visited Manhas’ house was greeted with sweets and smiles.

“This is the happiest moment of my life. I always remained hopeful of his return and want to thank the central and Chhattisgarh governments and everybody else who stood by us during the testing time,” Manhas’ wife Meenu told reporters at their house in Burnai on the Jammu-Akhnoor road.

The commando’s five-year-old daughter Raghvi, who had made a passionate appeal for her father’s release, was seen kissing his picture on a mobile phone.

“I had prayed for my father’s release,” she said.

A police party led by a deputy superintendent of police also visited the family and offered sweets to them. The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), of which the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA) is a part, also made a phone call to the family informing them about the release of Manhas.

“We have not slept for the last four days, leave aside eating properly. We are satisfied to see him return to his camp hale and hearty. This was what all of us wanted,” said Manhas’ younger brother Sumit.

He said it was a difficult phase for the family and “we are very thankful to God that it is over now”.

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