(Eds: Adding details) Bijapur, Apr 8 (PTI) A CoBRA commando, who was abducted by Naxals in Chhattisgarh after the last week's fierce gun-battle in Bastar region of the state, was released on Thursday after remaining in their custody for five days, police said.
With the release of the jawan, Rakeshwar Singh Manhas, the authorities in Chhattisgarh heaved a sigh of relief.
A group of four social activists and tribal representatives facilitated his release, police said.
On his release, Manhas, belonging to the Commando Battalion for Resolute Action (CoBRA), an elite unit of the CRPF, reached Tarrem Police station riding pillion on the motorcycle of a local journalist.
Subsequently, he was brought to Basaguda in an ambulance for medical examination, where he was seen waving hands at the media.
'Naxals did not raise any demand and released him unconditionally. They said they just wanted him to reach his home safely,' eminent social activist Dharampal Saini, who was among the facilitators, said.
'The jawan told me that he was not harmed by the Naxals in their captivity,' the 91-year-old Padma Shri awardee said.
Tribal leader Telam Boraiyya, former sarpanch of Murdanda village Sukhmati Hapka, both from Bijapur, and Rudra Karre, a retired school teacher from Bastar, were three other facilitators, police said.
According to police, journalists, including Mukesh Chandrakar and Ganesh Mishra, also played a pivotal role in securing the release of the jawan.
'Naxals on April 4 had informed some local journalists that the jawan is in their captivity and he will remain safe.
They did not reveal their future course of action, but we were in constant touch with them,' Chandrakar, a journalist with a news channel told PTI.
Maoists had then demanded to name the mediators whom they will hand over the abducted jawan, he said.
'On Thursday, we went to Jonaguda, the encounter site, with four facilitators on motorcycles, from where we were taken deep inside the forest for about 15 kms. There, hundreds of tribals from several villages had gathered while around 40 cadres of the Pamed Area Committee of Maoists were also present,' he said.
The jawan with his hands tied with a rope was brought by the armed cadres in front of villagers and freed before handing him over to the mediators, he said.
Chandrakar said the jawan told him that he fell unconscious during the April 3 gunfight after sustaining minor splinter injuries and later found himself in the captivity of Naxals.
The Naxals used to cover his eyes with black fabric while shifting him in the forest from one place to another, he said.
After bringing him to Tarrem, he was handed over to a CRPF official, he added.
'At around 4.30 pm, the abducted jawan returned safely to Tarrem Police Station along with the facilitators, who went inside the jungle to trace out his location,' Inspector General of Police (Bastar range) Sundarraj P said.
The jawan has been admitted to Basaguda field hospital for medical examination and treatment, he said.
Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel expressed happiness over his releas and thanked the facilitators, who were involved in the process, an official statement said.
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.
Next day, 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 martyred personnel, 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. PTI COR TKP VT NP NP