Bringing the curtains down on a 50-hour abudction episode, Maoists on Thursday evening freed police officer Atindranath Dutta in the Domohini forest near Lalgarh in West Bengal in the presence of a group of journalists.
The Maoists kidnapped Atindranath Dutta after attacking the Sankrail thana in Paschim Medinipur district on October 20.
The release of Mr. Dutta was, however, preceded by a heavy exchange of fire in the Purnapani forest when the security forces zeroed in on the site where the Maoists were holed up.
The security forces had to retreat when Maoist Polit Bureau member Koteswar Rao alias Kishanji threatened that the Maoists would not be responsible if the abducted officer was killed in cross-fire.
He even warned the State government against carrying out any operation by the security force in the region for the next 48 hours, lest Mr. Dutta’s life be endangered.
The threat was followed by frantic calls from Mr. Dutta’s wife and father to Kishanji through local television channels pleading for his safety and well-being. Shortly after his release, Mr. Dutta called up his wife and said he was well.
The news of the Maoists’ decision to release Mr. Dutta was announced in the afternoon after 14 tribal women and nine men were granted conditional bail by the district sessions court at Midnapore.
They were demanding the immediate release of all elderly tribal women arrested for suspected Maoist links in exchange for the release of Mr. Dutta.
A group of journalists was taken to an undisclosed spot in the Domohini forest so that Mr. Dutta could be released before the media and the time of release was set at 3.30 p.m.
However, the release finally came at 5.30 p.m. when Mr. Dutta, accompanied by a lawyer, was brought before the media team as darkness descended on the forest.
“Since the State government has responded to our demands and released the tribal women, we too are releasing Mr. Dutta keeping our promise to his family. Even when the forces fired at us this [Thursday] morning, we shielded him with all our might,” Kishanji told The Hindu over telephone from his hideout.
He refused to say whether the release was negotiated with any State representative or not though.
Mr. Dutta’s wife, Indrani Dutta, thanked both the State government and Kishanji for their “cooperation” in releasing her husband.