After being held captive by the Maoists for five days, the three Pune youths — Adarsh Deepak Patil (21), Shrikrushna Pandurang Shevale (24) and Vikas Dnyaneshwar Walke (21) — finally reunited with their families on Wednesday.
A team of Gadchiroli police escorted them to Pune in a police vehicle. Senior Pune city police officers interacted with the boys for a few hours before they were handed over to their families at the Pune police commissionerate around 5 pm.
The trio said they had circulated messages on social media appealing to youths to join their cycle tour “Jodo Bharat” with route “Bhamragad – Dantewada- Sukma – Bastar – Malkangiri – Balimela – Vishakhapatnam” and their intention was to “meet the people”. But finally, only three of them could make it. They left Pune by bus on December 22, carrying cycles on top of the bus, went to Nagpur, briefed Professor Arvind Sovani about their tour and then went to Bhamragad by bus and started cycling.
According to them, they reached Basaguda village in Bijapur district on December 29. Soon after they left this place, they were captured by some Naxal supporters. The Naxals then kept them for four nights and five days and questioned them rigorously suspecting their links with the police. On Sunday, Naxals released them near Chintalnar in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh from where the police brought them to Gadchiroli on Tuesday morning.
“Naxals questioned us as they suspected us to be police informers or having links with security forces. They found our cycle tour map with routes and places in Maoist areas and grew more suspicious. We showed them our college identity cards and explained that our intention was to understand the people and that we had no connection with the police. On the fifth day, they decided to leave us… I am happy to meet my family now. There was a time when I had lost all hope,” Shevale told The Indian Express.
Adarsh said, “The Maoists did not harm us physically, but our movements were restricted. We wanted to go, but they were not leaving us.”
Apparently, investigating agencies also questioned the three to confirm why they had planned a cycle tour through Maoist affected areas. However, they went ahead despite warnings given by the local administration. Also, there is suspicion about the ideology followed by the three. Adarsh’s Facebook page has a poem titled “Ha hum hain Naxal (yes we are Naxals)”.
Joint commissioner of police Sunil Ramanand told reporters they had interacted with the three and a detailed inquiry would be conducted in this case.
Adarsh, however, denied having any support for Naxals. “We had conducted a cycle rally of 900 kilometres last year and visited Sevagram Ashram and projects of noted social workers Prakash Amte and Abhay and Rani Bang. It inspired us to plan the Jodo Bharat cycle tour. We could not finish it, but we now plan to conduct our next tour in North East India,” he said. The youths said they were fond of adventure and liked to understand the society and its people.
Professor Sovani said, “The boys met me in Nagpur. It is appreciable if youths, who are not from the government and the police, travel in forests and completely undeveloped areas having high Maoist influence for understanding the situation there. But some precautions should be taken. I am happy the boys have reached home safe.”