The Bihar government on Monday heaved a sigh of relief as the three policemen held captive by Naxals in Lakhisarai forests for eight days were set free.

Sources in the police said Sub-Inspectors Rupesh Kumar and Abhay Yadav and Bihar Military Police Havildar Ehsan Khan were released early in the morning at Simra Rari, 165 km from here, on the border of the Chanan-Kajra forests under the Chanan police station in Lakhisarai.

Medical sources said all the three captives, who had an emotional reunion with their families, were in a “satisfactory condition.”

Talking to reporters, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar thanked the people, the press and intellectuals who created an atmosphere in which it was possible to secure the release of the hostages. He, however, condemned the killing of Havildar Lucas Tete by Naxals. Mr. Tete was a brave man, he said.

There was no “political angle” to the crisis. “No deals” were made with Naxals, he reiterated. Naxals had demanded the release of eight of their cadres.

Plea to Centre

The Chief Minister urged the Centre to ensure 100 per cent deployment of the paramilitary forces during the coming Assembly polls in the State. “There is no guarantee that such an incident will not repeat itself in the near future.” If the deployment was only 50 or 60 per cent, then troop stationing would take place selectively in a few booths. “In such a case, somebody has to decide in which booths the paramilitary units must be stationed. This discretion must not be left to any individual.”

Mr. Kumar said the deployment of paramilitary forces must not be a mere “formal action.” It should be a comprehensive measure that would guarantee the conduct of free and fair elections.

“Moreover, the State government's hands are tied once the model code of conduct is clamped. So, I humbly request cent per cent paramilitary forces deployment.” It was the State government, and not the Centre, that would pay for this deployment and helicopter surveillance, he pointed out.

Mr. Kumar appealed to Naxals to be a part of the democratic processes, while reiterating his guarantee of their safety.

Sub-Inspector Rupesh Kumar Sinha said they were isolated after abduction and he did not know of Tete's death until Monday. “We thought that Tete was the first one to have been released as he was an adivasi,” he said at his residence here.

DGP Neelmani said seven more Naxals — including an area commander — were arrested in the course of the operation to rescue the captives. Post-Lakhisarai crisis, the police recovered a huge consignment of ammunition from Munger meant for delivery to Naxals. It included 2,000 9 mm pistols, 2800 rounds of .315 bore and 100 rounds of 7.65 mm pistols.