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Maoist mediators to press rebels and secure early release of abducted Sukma Collector

May 3, 2012 - Chitalnar/Chennai

Maoist appointed mediators arrived in Chintalnar forest area of Chhattisgarh on Thursday to hold talks with the ultras and secure early release of abducted Sukma District Collector Alex Paul Menon.

Maoists had kidnapped Menon after killing his two bodyguards on April 21, while he was meeting Manjhipara villagers.

Heavily armed personnel of the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force were seen patrolling the forest area.

The two mediators, Hargopal and B. D. Sharma, arrived in a helicopter and headed towards the ultras core area.

Sharma told mediapersons that they were not sure whether they would return with Menon or not but they would definitely return to Jagdalpur by evening.

"Q. Sir by today evening, will you be back in Jagdalpur?

A. Absolutely.

Q. Will you be back with the collector?

A. Now with the collector or without the collector but we have to reach Jagdalpur by evening. Now whether he (Alex Menon) will be here or there, it depends on them (Maoists," said Sharma.

Meanwhile, the father of Alex Menon, A. Vardhas, who lives in Chennai, said that though the government acted very late in the matter, he was grateful to it as they take steps to secure the release of his son.

"Although the response was very late in the entire matter, but still the government has done its best for the safe and secure release of my son. And, I really thank the government and the Maoists. My son's release is a very happy moment for me," said Vardhas.

In a bid to defuse the crisis, the Chhattisgarh state government had appointed two retired bureaucrats-Nirmala Buch and S. K. Mishra-as mediators to negotiate for Menon's release.

At the time of abduction, the 32-year-old Indian Administrative Service official was interacting with villagers under the 'Gram Suraj' programme that aims at counselling vulnerable locals and preventing them not to tread on the path of violence.

Simultaneously, lawmaker and leader of regional Biju Janata Dal (BJD) party, Jay Panda, said its time to evolve a national policy to combat the Maoists effectively.

"This is a new thing that has started happening lately. It is possibly a new tactic in response to whatever situation they may be facing on the ground. There has been a lot of increase in both security as well as developmental activities in all these states and that may be bringing pressure on some of these Maoist organisations. I would welcome, of course, the release of the Sukma collector and I would also agree that there is need now to have national consensus, a national policy should evolve about how we should tackle it. But you talked about the Orissa situation, I think it was handled with a very calm and professional manner because there were no casualties and what was agreed to was only the expediting of the court hearings of certain prisoners with lesser charges against them, so I think that kind of a policy perhaps would be acceptable to have across the country," said Panda.

Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh has described the Maoists as India's main internal security threat and an obstacle to higher growth and more jobs in Asia's third-largest economy.

They have fought a decades-long war against the government in a wide swathe of central and east India. They say they are fighting for the poor and landless and they often back farmers in land disputes with big business.

Hundreds of people are killed every year in the conflict, although levels of violence have fallen in recent years.


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