Malkangiri collector R Vineel Krishna, freed from Maoist custody on Thursday, says an element of fear will now haunt government servants working in Maoist strongholds after this incident. “Everyone has a family,” he said, adding, “I was much more worried about my family than anything else (during the eight-day captivity)”.
“I was fed well, not harmed and allowed to interact with junior engineer Pabitra Majhi (who too was abducted and released). I held discussions with the Maoists on various issues regarding the area and the people,” he recounted. Krishna was abducted on February 16 in Malkangiri district, about 700 km from Bhubaneswar, at a strategic point that serves as a corridor between three states – Orissa, Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh.
This is the first case of an IAS officer being abducted by the Maoists since 1988, when senior bureaucrat SR Sankaran was taken in by Andhra Pradesh’s Naxals. Such was Sankaran’s reputation as an officer that when he died last year many years after retirement, Maoist sympathiser Varavar Rao attended his funeral.
Krishna told Hindustan Times he was able to observe at close quarters the conditions in which tribal villagers lived in the three places the ultras took him to. “In the remote jungle areas where we have never lived, I came to know how the poor survive. I have now become more sensitive to their requirements,” he said.
Is the strong protest of the villagers against the abduction a sign that the mass base of the red brigade is getting eroded? Krishna is non-committal on that. “All I know is that people want development – roads, schools, health facilities, etc.”
To a question whether it was proper on the part of Maoists to take officers hostage and pressure the government to yield to their demands, he said: Maoists can answer this.”