Blindfolded, and with their hands tied behind their backs, they stepped into freedom as Monday dawned.
Police Sub-Inspector Abhay Kumar Yadav, Havaldar Mohammad Ehtesham and Trainee Sub-Inspector Rupesh Kumar Sinha were released by the Maoists early on Monday near the Shringi Rishi Kund hills in Lakhisarai district, ending a nine-day hostage crisis that tested the nerve of the Nitish Kumar government and grabbed prime time on national news.
Following the policemen's release, the chief minister asked the Maoists to join the political mainstream and contest the assembly elections in Bihar.
The policemen were led by their captors to a pre-decided destination.
"We had walked for close to one-and-a-half hours when we spotted a white Safari," Sinha said. Abhay's uncle Sambhu Yadav and three others were waiting in the Tata Safari near Lakhochak village.
"We boarded the vehicle and moved towards Lakhisarai," Sinha said.
"Mid-way we met Lakhisarai SP Ranjit Mishra, who took us to the police station."
Sambhu said he had got a call from an unknown person regarding the captives' release.
The hostage crisis that started on August 9 took a tragic turn when the rebels killed Lucas Tete, the fourth policeman they had abducted. The Maoists, who'd initially demanded some of their comrades in police custody be released, eventually let the trio go unconditionally.
Nitish Kumar on Monday asked the Maoists to eschew violence.
"Nobody can take over the reins of the government through violence," he said.
"The only way left for them (the Maoists) is to convince people of their ideological worth (by contesting elections)."
Saying "only talks could lead to a lasting solution" to the Maoist problem, Nitish reiterated his offer for unconditional talks with full assurance of safe passage to the rebels.See special | Listen to podcast: Deal in release?