Maoists' mediators reach Raipur

Maoists' mediators reach Raipur

Efforts for release of Alex Paul Menon, the Sukma collector whom Maoists kidnapped on April 21, picked pace Thursday after two mediators named by the rebels - Hargopal, a professor from Hyderabad, and B.D. Sharma, former collector of Bastar - reached Raipur.

The two mediators are expected to meet Nirmala Butch, former Madhya Pradesh chief secretary, and S.K. Mishra, former Chhattisgarh chief secretary, whom the Chhattisgarh governor has appointed as mediators. They would negotiate the way forward on the Maoists' two demands for Menon's release.

Maoists had April 22 sent an anonymous taped message to media outlets in the state and said that the Chhattisgarh government must free its eight key jailed leaders - Marakam Gopannam, Nirmal Akka, Devpal Chandra Shekher Reddy, Shanti Priya Reddy, Meena Chowdhary, Korasa Sunny, Markan Sunny and Asit Kumar Sen. Their other demand was a freeze on Operation Green Hunt.

Meanwhile, Left leader Manish Kunjam said Menon was "fine and safe" after delivering asthma medicines to him.

Returning from the hideout where Menon is being held hostage by Maoists, Kunjam said he could not meet the district collector but the medicines have reached him.

Asked about the kidnapped officer's release, Kunjam said: "I have been kept out from the dialogue process. I am not in any position to make a comment on it."

Kunjam also met Menon's wife Asha Thursday at the collector's official residence in Sukma and briefed her about his health and consoled her as she is going through a phase of mental trauma.

Kunjam, a former Chhattisgarh legislator and a Communist Party of India leader in the troubled Bastar region, had collected medicines from Asha and reached Chintagufa Tuesday evening.

He then went into the jungle to hand over medicines to Menon, who reportedly needed urgent medical attention.

Kunjam, a prominent tribal leader, was named mediator by the Maoists but refused to joint in the negotiating process. Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan also declined to be a negotiator on behalf of the Maoists.

Menon, 32, a 2006 batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, was abducted at gunpoint Saturday by rebels from a forested location, while he was interacting with tribals. The Maoists shot dead his two guards who resisted his abduction.

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