Collector walks a free man

DRIVER, THE DEAREST: On his release by Maoists, Malkangiri Collector R. Vineel Krishna hugs his driver Shankar Rao on Thursday. Photo: Aman Sethi   | Photo Credit: Handout_E_Mail

The television cameras were massed outside his house, but when Malkangiri Collector R. Vineel Krishna took his first steps to freedom, the reception party consisted of the one man who had missed him most visibly.

Driver Shankar Rao had spent eight days on the shores of the Balimela reservoir, arriving at five in the morning and leaving only after darkness fell, waiting for the moment when he could take Mr. Krishna back home.

As Mr. Krishna stepped off the motorboat, Mr. Rao opened the car door and prepared to take his place behind the wheel. Mr. Krishna rushed to embrace him as Mr. Rao broke down. “Why are you crying?” Mr. Krishna asked in Telugu. “I am here now.”

Mr. Krishna and junior engineer Pabitra Mahji were abducted at Janta Pai village in Malkangiri district by armed cadres of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) on the evening of February 16. The terms for his release were decided after a week of hectic negotiations between the Maoists and the Orissa government.

Mr. Krishna was released around 7 p.m. on Thursday after the Maoists held a four-hour public meeting with villagers in Tentuliguda village, held in the presence of a few reporters from local Oriya news channels. Mr. Mahji was released on Wednesday.

Thanking the public for their support, Mr. Krishna said he was in perfect health. “The Maoists took care of my well-being and dignity.”

He said he had spent his days in frequent conversation with the Maoists, who discussed mining and tribal development issues.

Asked if the eight-day ordeal had changed his perspective on development, Mr. Krishna acknowledged the importance of a debate on the nature of development, adding the tribals should benefit.

Mr. Krishna said he was surprised by his kidnapping as he was travelling in the area with the express purpose of evaluating development projects. “I never felt my life was in danger. They [the Maoists] made it clear that they would not harm me.”

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 4:22:06 AM |

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