In a display of deepening relations, villagers near Lalgarh held two sweepers of a police camp and handed them over to the Maoists on Tuesday evening.
Till Wednesday morning both remain in the custody of Maoists, though rebel leader Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji, 51, announced on Tuesday night they would be releasing one of them.
The abduction happened hours after the word spread about the rout of the CPI(M) in the bypolls to the 10 Assembly seats in Bengal.
Rajendra Hela and Ramswarup Hela, both in their forties, were abducted by villagers and handed over to the Maoists. They were sweepers of the Gohomidanga camp of the combined forces near Lalgarh in West Midnapore district, about 200 km to the west of Kolkata. Both were abducted from a spot called Monidaha.
“Villagers handed the duo to members off the People’s Liberation Guerilla Army. Both prisoners are safe,” said Kishenji on Tuesday.
He also said that they would be released after the state government apologised for a police lathicharge on Tuesday afternoon on a peaceful tribal demonstration.
The tribals were protesting the murder of Khagen Majhi, a Trinamool Congress supporter. The sweepers were travelling in a vehicle to reach the police lines and the car ran into the demonstration at Monidaha.
However, later in the night Kishenji announced they would be releasing Rajendra Hela on humanitarian grounds. “Our men would release him tomorrow morning,” Kishenji had said.
But there was no trace of Rajendra Hela till 9:30 on Wednesday morning.
The Maoist leader had also said they would decide on the fate of Ramswarup Hela later.