Sukma collector safe, say mediators after meeting Maoists

Raipur, April 29: Abducted Sukma collector Alex Paul Menon is safe, two interlocutors who met Maoists in their jungle hideout said Sunday, adding the rebels had replied to the Chhattisgarh government’s message on their demands for his release.

The two interlocutors – Hyderabad-based professor G. Hargopal and former IAS (Indian Administrative Service) officer B.D. Sharma – had gone to meet the rebels Saturday with a message from the Chhattisgarh government and emerged from the rebels-commanded area Sunday morning with a reply from the Maoists.

The mediators told a few electronic mediapersons in state’s violence-hit Sukma district, some 500 km south from here, “We had a detailed talk with top Maoists leaders during our overnight stay in the jungle and briefed them about the talk we had with government mediators in Raipur regarding the two demands for Menon’s release.”

However, the interlocutors refused to give any details of the Maoists’ reply to the local media in Chintalnar area of Sukma district.

They said: “Collector Menon is safe, we will share our discussion with Maoists only with the government-mediators in Raipur.”

Hargopal and Sharma visited the Maoist hideout after holding several rounds of closed-door marathon meetings with two government mediators – Nirmala Buch, former Madhya Pradesh chief secretary, and S.K. Mishra, former chief secretary of Chhattisgarh – at Raipur’s state guest house.

Official sources said the Chhattisgarh government, which is desperate to ensure the safe release of Menon, has positively responded to the Maoists’ two demands – release of 17 jailed ultras and a halt to the anti-Maoist drive, Operation Green Hunt.

“We are highly optimistic about the early and safe release of the young IAS officer,” a senior official at police headquarters here told IANS.

Menon, 32, was abducted at gunpoint April 21 by rebels from a forested location in Sukma district, some 500 km south of here. The Maoists shot dead his two guards who resisted his abduction.

IANS