Abducted collector: Government, Maoist mediators hold talks

Raipur, April 26: In a bid to ensure release of abducted Sukma district collector Alex Paul Menon, the two mediators named by Maoists and two former bureaucrats appointed by the Chhattisgarh government held a lengthy closed door meeting here Thursday evening.

Chhattisgarh government appointed mediators – Nirmala Buch, a former Madhya Pradesh chief secretary and S.K. Mishra, a former state chief secretary held the first round of discussion with Maoists mediators – the Hyderabad-based Professor G. Hargopal and former IAS officer B.D. Sharma.

They decided to resume talks Friday.

“It was a very constructive and positive talk, we will begin the second round of discussion Friday again to set the process for freedom of Alex Paul Menon on fast track,” Buch told reporters.

Official sources said that in a closed door meeting held at government guest house which went on for more than three hours, the government and the Maoists mediators discussed all aspects related to the Maoists’ two demands included release of eight jailed rebels.

Maoists had April 22 sent an anonymous taped message to media outlets in the state and said that the Chhattisgarh government must free its eight key jailed leaders – Marakam Gopannam, Nirmal Akka, Devpal Chandra Shekher Reddy, Shanti Priya Reddy, Meena Chowdhary, Korasa Sunny, Markan Sunny and Asit Kumar Sen. Their other demand was a freeze on Operation Green Hunt.

Meanwhile, Left leader Manish Kunjam said Menon was “fine and safe” after delivering asthma medicines to him.

Returning from the hideout where Menon is being held hostage by Maoists, Kunjam said he could not meet the district collector but the medicines have reached him.

Asked about the kidnapped officer’s release, Kunjam said: “I have been kept out from the dialogue process. I am not in any position to make a comment on it.”

Kunjam also met Menon’s wife Asha Thursday at the collector’s official residence in Sukma and briefed her about his health and consoled her as she is going through a phase of mental trauma.

Kunjam, a former Chhattisgarh legislator and a Communist Party of India leader in the troubled Bastar region, had collected medicines from Asha and reached Chintagufa Tuesday evening.

He then went into the jungle to hand over medicines to Menon, who reportedly needed urgent medical attention.

Kunjam, a prominent tribal leader, was named mediator by the Maoists but refused to joint in the negotiating process. Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan also declined to be a negotiator on behalf of the Maoists.

Menon, 32, a 2006 batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, was abducted at gunpoint Saturday by rebels from a forested location, while he was interacting with tribals. The Maoists shot dead his two guards who resisted his abduction.

IANS