The Chhattisgarh government and intelligence agencies have opened a back-channel dialogue with CPI (Maoist), with help from social activist and panchayat members, to ensure the safe release of CoBRA commando Rakeshwar Singh Manhas.

Chhattisgarh parliamentary secretary (home) Vikas Upadhyay told ET over phone: “The state government is trying its best to ensure the release of the CRPF commando and we will make sure that he is released unharmed.”

Officials on Wednesday confirmed that the letter and photographs released by the Maoists were authentic. “It appears that they had accessed his phone and sent an old picture stored in the mobile,” said an official familiar with the developments. The picture was released a day after the Dandakaranya Special Zonal Committee (DSZC) of the banned organisation issued a press note asking government-mandated interlocutors to whom the jawan would be handed over to.

In the picture released by the Maoists, Manhas can be seen sitting on a plastic mat under a temporary shelter, possibly at a Maoist camp. “We are aware about his whereabouts and efforts are being made at multiple levels to ensure his safe release. We have urged the elected representatives in the adjoining districts to come forward who have been able to establish contacts with the Maoist leaders,” said a senior official on the condition of anonymity.

He said the back-channel dialogue has yielded some results as they have been able to establish contact and convey their messages. “So far, the Maoists have not made any demands. We are expecting the negotiations to end in the next two days,” the official added. Manhas had gone missing following the attack on security personnel on Saturday in which 22 Jawans died in Bijapur-Sukhma region on April 3.

The statement issued on Tuesday by CPI (Maoist) is signed by ‘Vikalp’, the DSZC spokesperson. It said four People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army (PLGA) cadres were killed in the encounter at Tarrem on April 3. It added that they also took 14 weapons, over 2,000 ammunition and other items belonging to the security personnel.

The killed PLGA cadres were identified by the Maoists as Odi Sanni, Padam Lakhma, Kowasi Badru and Nupa Suresh, all residents of South Bastar. Sanni’s body was recovered by security forces on April 3. The statement said Madvi Sukkal, another villager was also killed before the encounter.