Collector’s abduction: Two of three ‘mediators’ say no

New Delhi, April 24: Two of the three mediators named by Maoists to negotiate the release of Chhattisgarh district collector Alex Paul Menon have refused to join talks. While lawyer Prashant Bhushant said he could not mediate while Menon was still in Maoist custody, tribal leader Manish Kunjam cited political reasons.

Maoists late Monday named Supreme Court lawyer and Team Anna member Bhushan, former National Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe Commission chairperson B.D. Sharma and All India Adivasi Mahasabha president Kunjam as mediators.

Kunjam told reporters that there were “political reasons as well as local circumstances” behind his decision. “There are two more names on the list. We will personally request these people to mediate and we will give them whatever help necessary.”

Bhushan told reporters that while he considered the Maoists’ demands for release of innocent tribals and ending operation Green Hunt against them “completely justified”, he would not mediate while they held Menon captive.

Bhushan told IANS that he “cannot mediate using an innocent person’s life as a pawn”.

“They should unconditionally release Menon and after that, if they want me to mediate with the government on their behalf, I will do that,” he added.

Sharma was the only person who said he was ready to “take the dialogue forward” but claimed that he wanted to hear the state government’s reaction.

“I got to know around midnight yesterday that my name is on the list. For the dialogue to progress, someone has to take lead. But I would like to hear the state government’s reaction,” Sharma told reporters.

Congress spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury reacted sharply and asked the media not to publicise the comments of “senseless” people like Bhushan.

“If he thinks (Maoists’ demands) are justified, he should go and talk with them. He should understand the plight of the families of those who have been abducted. But who can talk sense with such a senseless person,” she said.

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

IANS