A Chhattisgarh Police team that had gone to Malkangiri district of Odisha to arrest a surrendered woman Maoist in mid-June was detained overnight by the Odisha Police after she raised an alarm.
Manjula had surrendered in 2014 and runs a small brick kiln on the outskirts of Malkangiri town with help from local police.
The Chhattisgarh Police eventually returned without Manjula, who used to be an area commander in a local Maoist division till she surrendered.
Chhattisgarh Special DG, Anti Naxal Operations, D M Awasthi confirmed that on June 16, six-seven police personnel from his force had arrived at Malkangiri to nab a Maoist. The plainclothed cops had checked into a local hotel and after tracking Manjula for some time, had picked her up.
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Manjula reportedly first thought they were kidnappers, but later realised they were from the Chhattisgarh Police. Afraid she would be killed in an encounter, she raised an alarm, catching the attention of passersby, who alerted the local police.
The Odisha Police thought that Maoists had struck, and they put checkposts to intercept the vehicle, they said. Within an hour, the jeep was stopped, and the men in it detained.
While the men tried to convince their Odisha counterparts that they were police personnel too, what raised suspicion was that they were in plainclothes. As Malkangiri SP Mitrabhanu Mohapatra was away in Bhubaneswar, the Chhattisgarh cops made a series of phone calls to their bosses, who in turn called the DIG (south-western range) to sort out the issue.
Odisha Police officials confirm that the team was only allowed to go the next morning. “The cops probably wanted to take away the surrendered Maoist thinking her to be a good catch. When you are venturing into another state, you should inform your counterparts. Who would know that they are cops? However the issue was sorted out amicably,” said Malkangiri SP Mitrabhanu Mohapatra.
Chhattisgarh Special DG Awasthi denied his men were “detained”. “On a tip-off, we had sent a party to Malkangiri to apprehend some Maoists. They found the suspect. She was at a hospital for some treatment. We caught her. On their way back, the Malkangiri police stopped the vehicle. Initially, since our policemen were in civil clothes, they were taken to be Maoists and brought to the police station. They were not detained, but only held back for questioning,” he said.
Awasthi said it had been just a “misunderstanding”. “On our part too, our policemen should have informed the Odisha Police.”
The Odisha Police has had run-ins with the Chhattisgarh Police over certain recent incidents, including a senior Chhattisgarh cop addressing journalists in Malkangiri without their knowledge.