The Chhattisgarh Police suspect that the member of the elite Commando Battalion for Resolute Action, or CoBra, who went missing during the encounter with Maoists in Chhattisgarh last week, is being held captive by the insurgency group, The Indian Express reported on Tuesday.

Twenty-two security personnel were killed and at least 30 more were wounded in the four-hour gun battle with Maoists that took place in the forests of Bijapur in Chhattisgarh on April 2. This was the bloodiest ambush of its kind in four years.

On Sunday, when the rescue terms were still scouring for bodies at the ambush site, Bastar Inspector General of Police P Sundarraj had confirmed that one constable, Rakeshwar Singh Manhas of the CoBRA unit of the Central Reserve Police Force, was alive but missing.

Since then, the security agencies, including the CRPF and the district police, have been making frantic phone calls to sources within Bijapur, including local journalists, to make enquiries, reported the newspaper.

But three days later, the police were yet to ascertain the missing soldier’s whereabouts.

“We have received information that he is alive and was taken by them [Maoists],” Bijapur Superintendent of Police Kamlochan Kashyap told The Indian Express. “We are investigating further.”

Bastar Range Inspector General of Police Sunderaj P said the police was committed to bringing the commando back, and that they were waiting to confirm whether the information about his abduction was true. He said the police found out that he was being held captive by Naxalites through social media, reported ANI.

“Efforts are on to trace his location and bring him back safely,” Sunderaj said, according to the Hindustan Times. “We are committed to bring back the jawan safely. Security forces are equally committed for peace and development of Bastar region.”

Two phone calls

The news of Manas’ possible abduction first broke out on Monday morning, when Maoist fighters called local two journalists in Sukma and Bijapur districts of Chhattisgarh, according to The Indian Express.

One of the journalists claimed that he spoke to Vikalp, the Dandakaranya spokesperson of the Maoists.

“Vikalp asked about the casualties on the security forces side,” the journalist said. “He also said that constable Manhas was alive and in their custody. He said that he had been injured but the Maoists had tended to him, and was healthy.”

Vikalp added that they meant no harm to the captured officer and that they would let him go soon, “maybe within three days”, the journalist said, according to the newspaper.

The other journalist said his conversation with the insurgency fighters was a brief one. “They said only two lines, that he [the security officer] was with them and that he was fine,” the journalist said.

An unidentified police official told PTI that they had “reasons to believe” the abduction claim made over phone was true. “However, we do not have concrete evidence to substantiate the claim made by some Maoist elements that he has been taken away by them,” the officer added.

Family appeals to Maoists for soldier’s release

Meanwhile, Commandant PC Gupta from CRPF headquarters at Bantalab visited the family of the missing soldier in Nethar Kothey in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday afternoon. He assured them that the security forces were doing everything to trace Manhas and bring him back safely.

Manhas’ wife appealed to to his abductors to let him go. “Following the attack, a local reporter from Chhattisgarh called me and asked whether I want to say something to the Maoists because he informed me that he will take our appeal to them,” she said, according to the Hindustan Times. “I told him that I want to request them [Maoists] to release him.”

She said the last time she spoke to her husband was on Friday night, when he was packing his bags to leave for the operation. “He told me he will talk to me the next day,” she said.

A video of Manhas’ five-year-old daughter making an appeal for his release has gone viral on social media, reported News18. “I love my father very much, please Naxal uncle spare my father and send him home,” the soldier’s daughter can be heard saying as she breaks down into tears.