Canadian cyclist held by Naxals in India’s Bastar is safe: Police

Raipur (PTI): A Canadian national who went missing from Chhattisgarh’s Sukma district on Monday has been held by lower-rung Naxal cadres and is safe, police said on Tuesday.

John Szlazak, who was on a bicycle expedition from Mumbai to Bastar, was held by local Naxal cadres in Singamadgu village under Chintagufa police station limits of Sukma district, some 450 km south of Raipur, police said.

“He is safe. He is reported to be in Singamadgu village area with ‘Sangham’ (local Maoist group) members,” Sukma Superintendent of Police Abhishek Meena told PTI.

The officer said the Canadian national hadn’t been taken hostage, but it seemed to be “a case of communication gap”.

The villagers and Sangham members came across Szlazak Monday evening when he was passing through Singamadgu and questioned him as he was carrying camping equipment, food, etc., and suspecting him to be a police informer.

As they couldn’t understand what he was saying because of the language problem, they didn’t allow him to proceed.

“The locals have informed us that he is safe and likely to reach some safe destination by tomorrow (Wednesday),” the SP added.

“We have sent some local men to tell villagers that he is not connected to security forces,” Meena said. “They will convince villagers that he is a tourist.”

There was no official intimation about the Canadian national’s visit to the Naxal-infested Bastar, the SP added.

Szlazak had left Mumbai on March 14.

He probably took the route from Bhadrachalam in Telangana to reach Chintagufa via Pamed where he was spotted the last time, another police officer said.

No police party had been sent to the spot, which is considered as a Maoist den, so as not to imperil his safety, the police officer said.