Collector’s abduction: Maoists want eight cadres freed

Raipur, April 22: The Maoist abductors of a Chhattisgarh district collector Sunday demanded the release of their eight jailed associates and a halt on security forces’ action against the rebels by April 25 in exchange for freeing the hostage, while police remained “totally clueless” about his whereabouts, an official said.

If the state government wanted the safe release of the district collector it should halt the anti-Maoist operation “Green Hunt”, said a communication from the rebels setting the three-day deadline to fulfil their two demands.

Sukma district collector Alex Paul Menon, 32, a 2006 batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, was taken at gunpoint by rebels from a forested location when he was interacting with tribals. The Maoists killed his two guards.

Meanwhile, Sukma, one of the worst Maoist-insurgency hit districts in India, observed a shutdown Sunday in protest against Menon’s abduction.

The Maoists’ demands for Menon’s release were conveyed Sunday evening to media persons. Reporters received calls on their mobile phones on which a recorded message was played from the caller’s end.

“Our demands include immediate abandoning of operation ‘Green Hunt’, release of people jailed in Raipur and Dantewada on false charges, return of security personnel to the barracks and the release of eight cadres in jail,” said the anonymous taped message.

The rebels demanded the release of associates including Marakam Gopannam, Nirmal Akka, Devpal Chandra Shekher Reddy, Shanti Priya Reddy, Meena Chowdhary, Korasa Sunny, Markan Sunny and Asit Kumar Sen.

An officer at the police headquarters here told IANS: “We combed certain parts of the forests which are Maoist strongholds and areas adjoining Andhra Pradesh border Sunday to rescue the abducted 32-year-old collector but we are totally clueless. We have no idea at which part of their hideouts the rebels have kept him hostage.”

Despite an intense search operation to nab the abductors “no clue whatsoever was found about Menon”. This the first abduction of any IAS officer in the mineral-rich state since the Maoist insurgency broke out in the late 1980s.

The Maoists clad in tribal outfits abducted Menon in full public view, killing his two guards when they attempted to resist.

Menon, who hails from Tamil Nadu, was taken hostage from a forested area Manjhipara, around 500 km south of Raipur.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, who has been heading a Bharatiya Janata Party government in the state since December 2003, and the opposition Congress have appealed to the Maoists to release the district collector immediately.

Menon’s wife Asha also made a fresh appeal Sunday to the Maoists through local news channels to release her husband as he was suffering from asthma and not carrying his medicines with him.

IANS