Maoists had abducted three men from the state while they were on a mission to spread peace and harmony in Maoist-affected areas; the men were released yesterday and they are determined as ever to keep going forward with their message
The journey of three youths, who recently began travelling on their bicycles to the Maoist-affected areas to spread a message of peace, was cut short after Maoists abducted them. They were released yesterday afternoon. However, the experience has not dampened their spirits and they hope to continue their mission, albeit with a little precaution.
The three men who were abducted by Maoists.
The men were identified as Vikas Valve (22), a resident of Wagholi in Pune, Shrikrishna Shewale (23) from Pathan in Satara and Adarsh Patil (22) from Karad in Satara district. They had been abducted on December 28 and the rebels in Chhattisgarh's Sukma district released them yesterday.
Speaking to mid-day, Adarsh said, "We had set out with the mission of Bharat Jodo and our aim was also to understand our own culture. Though it has remained incomplete this time, we will begin the journey once again."
He adds, "It was cold.
The people spoke to us nicely and they provided us food as well. It's really unfortunate that we cannot continue our trip but the next time we will definitely take some precaution and do it." Recalling the day they were kidnapped, Adarsh said, "We were on our way to Basaguda village in Chhattisgarh. Villagers spotted us and took us to an isolated area where people were patrolling with guns. Some of them were stationed on trees. Language was an issue for us initially."
He adds, "They checked our bags and luggage. The three of us were then kept in a secluded area in a lock-up. We were sleeping on one bed. This journey was a nightmare for us but after they (the Maoists) realised that we were not spying on them, they decided to release us. On Saturday night, we were asked to leave with a man, after which we reached the police camp."
Speaking to mid-day, Adarsh's father Deepak, who is a primary school teacher in Karad, said, "They have been friends since their college days. Last year, they had taken up a similar initiative to travel to Maoist-affected areas in Maharashtra, where they had travelled to Chandrapur and Gadchiroli. This year too they went for a tour." He added, "I was in Mumbai and was shocked when I heard about the incident. I was chanting god's name and when the Maoist connection came up, I thought my son would be tortured. But because of god's grace and the police, my son is safe. I haven't told his mother about the incident. But, I have asked him to cancel his tour and return to Karad."
Madhumati, Vikas' cousin said, "Vikas and Adarsh are friends and have a bachelor's degree in History while Shrikrishna is a graduate in Sanskrit. Vikas' father is farmer and as the son of a farmer, he is very attached to social issues. To understand these issues in greater depth, he planned to travel to such areas."
'Suspect Pappu Rao'
Inspector General of Police, Bastar Range, SRP Kalluri said, "Three youths have been released on Sunday afternoon around 1 pm and have safely reached Chintalnar police camp." An officer involved in the search operation said, "During the investigation, we found out that three men had left from Pune and had planned to cycle throughout Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and Odisha, especially through Maoist-affected areas. They had planned to reach Balimela in Odisha by January 10."
He added, "On December 28, they entered the Chhattisgarh border via Bijapur in Maharashtra. From Chhattisgarh, they planned to cycle to Bheeramgad, Dantewada and Sukuma village in Chhattisgarh and from there they had planned to travel to Odisha and visit Kalahandi and Malangiri villages. We suspect that Maoist Commander Pappu Rao might have been involved in the kidnapping. Our probe is in progress."
Vikas' cousin Madhumati said that her family had made it a point to speak to Vikas once a day. “We spoke to him last on December 28, around 6.30 am, when he complained about poor mobile network and said that he might not be able to talk to us because of the same. When we called him the next day, his phone was not reachable.
She further added, “We thought they were unable to contact us because their phones had not been charged, or because they were not receiving a signal. But we had never expected that they would be kidnapped. We came to know about the incident on Sunday morning, when we saw it flashing on news channels. We reached the local police station with media persons and with their help, we approached the Chhattisgarh police. Around 1.30 pm, we received a call informing us that they are safe.”