The Maoists finally responded to Jharkhand Chief Minister Shibu Soren’s offer to free 14 of their cadres and released Block Development Officer Prashant Kumar Layak on Friday evening.
Layak, who had been kidnapped on February 13, was released in Asthi village in the Maoist-dominated Gudabanda area on the Orissa border, around 250 km southeast of capital Ranchi.
Sources said on condition of anonymity that the Maoists handed over Layak to a group of local scribes and the police picked him up later.
Layak, after reaching Ghatsila, said the Maoists offered him maximum comforts even in the jungles. “They treated me well,” he said, embracing his three-and-a-half-year-old-daughter, Piu.
On Wednesday, after Soren assured the Maoists that their demands would be met, the police began the process of releasing the rebels from the Ghatsila jail, around 170 km southeast of capital Ranchi.
Ghatsila SP Naveen Kumar Singh declined to reveal how the government managed to secure Layak’s release. “We prefer to keep the strategy a secret,” he said.
But CPI (Maoist)’s East Singhbhum Mayurbhanj Border Area Regional Committee spokesperson Mangal told HT from an undisclosed location: “We took the decision to release him (Layak) after the Jharkhand government made several appeals and initiated steps to release our cadres.”
In October 2009, the Maoists kidnapped and released three days later a police officer in Lalgarh, 180 km from Kolkata.
But leaders of Soren’s coalition partner, the Bharatiya Janata Party, earlier asked him to act fast against the Maoists. Soren assured that he would take appropriate measures.
On Thursday, party chief Nitin Gadkari, at the Indore conclave, called for firm measures to stamp out Maoism after endorsing Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh’s call for a “bullet for bullet” policy.