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Sukma Collector’s release will take time
Man Mohan
Our Roving Editor

Menon in good health

Abducted Sukma District Collector Alex Paul Menon is in good health and has got the medicines sent to him, said the two mediators who briefed Maoists on their talks with the Chhattisgarh Government.

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Raipur, April 29
The release of Sukma District Collector Alex Paul Menon from Maoist custody appears to be headed for a long haul.

The third round of talks between two representatives each of the ‘Red rebels’ and the Chhattisgarh Government ended at the Circuit House here late in the night after five hours. The Maoists’ representatives made it clear that they were not interested in going to the forest near Dantewada again.

Menon was kidnapped from a village near Sukma in Aouth Bastar on April 21. He was holding a meeting with the villagers discussing their welfare schemes along with his administrative staff when a group of armed Maoists abducted him.

The Maoists are demanding the release of 17 colleagues lodged in various jails. Eight of them have been convicted and the rest are undertrials. The BJP- ruled state government is maintaining that they cannot release the convicted prisoners without the court's permission and this will take time. The Maoists are insisting on immediate release of their comrades citing various cases in which the government had released prisoners serving sentence.

Interestingly, one of the examples cited by them was that of Kandahar hijacking in which the NDA government had released three hardcore Kashmiri terrorists to ensure safety of passengers kept hostage. The Maoists representatives are BD Sharma, former IAS DM of Bastar, and Prof G Hargopal from Hyderabad university. Hargopal played a key role in the release of first case of a DM's kidnapping in Malkangiri in Orissa, which is not far from Sukma, some months ago.

The Chhattisgarh Government representatives are Nirmal Buch, former Chief Secretary of Madhya Pradesh when Chhattisgarh was part of the state. The second representative is S Mishra, former Chief Secretary of Chhattisgarh.

A spokesman of the South West Bastar committee of the Naxalties told The Tribune over telephone that they would not release Menon till the government agrees to release their ‘innocent’ comrades against whom false cases have been slapped.

The Maoists are controlling an area known as the Red Corridor stretching through deep jungles from the Nepal border to Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra borders, passing through Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Orissa.

A senior government official told this correspondent that they were confident of breaking the logjam to get Menon released. But the rebels’ strategy, it seems, is to stretch the hostage drama further to make the administration jittery.





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