Assuring “total safety” of the police officer who was abducted by Maoists from the Sankrail thana in West Bengal’s Paschim Medinipur district on Tuesday, Polit Bureau member of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) Koteswar Rao, alias Kishanji, announced that the officer will be treated like “any other prisoner-of-war” until the State government accedes to the Maoist demands.

Speaking to The Hindu over telephone from an undisclosed location in the district’s Lalgarh region on Wednesday, Kishanji said: “Since we are at war with the State, we have to abide by the rules of warfare and take hostages. But we will take care of Mr. Dutta and even welcome his father and wife to come and stay with him till the State government makes up its mind.”

The Maoists have demanded the release of all the tribal women arrested by the police over the last five months for suspected Maoist links, as well as the withdrawal of security forces from the district against the release of the police officer.

Asked if Mr. Dutta’s life would be at stake if the State government refused to meet their demands, Kishanji said the Maoists would “seek public opinion in such a situation and decide on their course of action.”

However, he did not give any hope on the two police constables who were abducted on July 30 and are still untraced. “If we had to release them against any demand, we would have made them earlier. We do not keep hostages for so long,” Kishanji said, apparently indicating little chance of the survival of the two constables.

Dialogue

On initiating dialogue with the West Bengal government, he said: “Lots have been said on this issue time and again. Let the State government make the first move.”