RAIPUR: Cycling enthusiast and Canadian John Szlazak, who had carefully charted out his bicycle tour from Mumbai to Bangladesh, is now forced to return to his country after he was abducted briefly by Maoists at Sukma district in Chhattisgarh.
Szlazak remained in the rebels’ captivity for over 50 hours and was released on Wednesday. Officials from Canadian embassy reached Raipur on Thursday and took him to Delhi from where he is scheduled to fly back to Canada.
In his late twenties, the Canadian cyclist was not aware that he was crossing the Maoist heartland of south Sukma district on March 26 when he was intercepted by the Sangham members (village-level supporters who constitute lower cadres of outlawed CPI-Maoist).
“I did not know I was passing through insurgency-hit areas. Language was an issue when I failed to make the local villagers, who stopped me, understand about my trip and passion. They perhaps got suspicious and took me to their armed cadres who further interrogated and searched my belongings”, he narrated to the police after his release. He landed at Mumbai from Canada in February this year.
“Some senior leader of Maoists might have conversed with him in English. After getting convinced that he was no threat for them, the Canadian citizen was allowed to go. He was not ill-treated and his stay with them was comfortable”, Bastar DIG P Sunderraj told the New Indian Express.
The Canadian citizen turn anxious after sensing he was in a dangerous situation a day after being taken into custody by Maoists in the remote Singamadugu village of Sukma, and pressed the GPS emergency button to send an alert, which consequently put the foreigner on the radar of Bastar police.
Szlazak shared with the police that he was "not badly" treated by the Maoists. “He was shifted from one place to another while in captivity. They also blindfolded him. Throughout, he remained under their close surveillance. He was served fish, boiled rice and vegetables to eat,” police sources told the New Indian Express.