Mediators say Sukma Collector is safe

Raipur/Chintalnar (Chhattisgarh), April 29: Mediators holding the first round of talks with the Maoist abductors of Sukma District Collector Alex Paul Menon on Sunday said he was safe and in good health.

The mediators were speaking to media after returning to Chintalnar after holding the talks with the Maoists.

They said they were hopeful of securing Menon’s early release after eight days of captivity.

The Naxals reportedly want 17 of their jailed compatriots freed in exchange for Menon, an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh has said that the demands of the Naxals would be considered only within the legal framework.

Menon’s family participated in another candlelight vigil in Sukma to demand his release.

The Chhattisgarh Government has intensified efforts to free Menon. The mediators include Nirmala Buch, S.K. Mishra Dr. B.D. Sharma and Professor Hargopal.

Among the 17 Maoists whose release is being demanded are Markam Gopanna alias Satyam Reddy, Nirmal Akka alias Vijay Laxmi, Devpal Chandrashekhar Reddy, Shantipriya Reddy, Meena Choudhari, Korsa Sunny, Markam Sunny and Asit Kumar Sen.

The ultras also want a halt to the anti-Maoist Operation Green Hunt, security forces to be withdrawn from the region and persons against whom they allege “fake cases” have been registered, released from jails.

Menon, an IAS officer of 2006 batch, was abducted from the middle of a meeting with villagers of Majhipara village in the Keralapal area of Sukma District on April 20.

Menon is the first collector of Sukma District and was known to be pro-active in undertaking development work in the backward region. (ANI)