Sukma collector may be released soon

Raipur, April 30: The release of abducted Sukma collector Alex Paul Menon in the next 48 hours seemed likely with the Maoist interlocutors and the Chhattisgarh government-appointed mediators agreeing Monday night to form a high-powered panel to deal with the Maoists’ demands.

Maoist interlocutors, Hyderabad-based professor G. Hargopal and Delhi-based former IAS officer B.D. Sharma and government mediators Nirmala Buch and S.K. Mishra agreed to a draft Monday night, paving the way for the release of Menon.

“The mediators from government as well as from Maoists side have signed on a two-page draft agreement and we expect that Alex would be released within 48 hours,” Chief Minister Raman Singh told newsmen in a brief press conference here Monday night.

“The high-powered review committee headed by Nirmala Buch will begin its work in an hour of the release of Menon by Maoists,” said Singh, who was clearly looking satisfied over the sudden development.

“It’s a good beginning,” Singh remarked, referring to the nod by Maoist interlocutors to the collector’s release. He added, “I am ready to take this beginning forward with Maoists for the welfare of the state.”

Singh said that the high-powered committee will look into all demands made by Maoists.

Menon, 32, a 2006 batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer is in Maoist captivity since April 21. The official, who belongs to Tamil Nadu, was abducted at gunpoint by rebels from a forested location in Sukma district, some 500 km south from here, while he was interacting with tribals.

The Maoists shot dead his two guards who resisted his abduction.

Official sources said that the high power review committee will consider the cases of undertrial maoists lodged in various jails in the state. The review committee will comprise three government members – Chief Secretary Sunil Kumar, Principal Secretary Home N.K. Aswal and Director General of Police Anil M. Navaney, while the former chief secretary of Madhya Pradesh Nirmala Buch will head the committee.

According to reports, both sides signed the two-page draft agreement prepared during the fifth round of talks Monday night and urged the rebels to release the abducted collector from their captivity within next 48 hours.

The Maoist interlocutors even said that they will travel to Tadmetla once again for talks with Maoists if the need arises.

Meanwhile, unconfirmed sources said that Alex Paul Menon is being kept at Kumadtung village, 5 km from Tadmetla area where Maoists had slaughtered 76 government forces in April 2010.

IANS