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Alex Paul Menon, Collector of Sukma District, Chhattisgarh.

Alex Paul Menon, District Collector of Sukma, Chhattisgarh and his entourage were ambushed by Maoist insurgents disguised as villagers when they were returning to their bas after attending the Gram Suraj Abhiyaan – a state government-run programme meant to promote greater coordination and connect between the villagers and administration. The rebels killed two security personnel of the Collector and took him as hostage.

The Collector, is an asthma patient, and the abductors informed the Chhattisgarh government that their hostage was critically ill.

Their statement said, “It’s our appeal to Mrs Asha Paul Menon, his friends, family and IAS officers that Mr Alex Paul Menon’s health is very critical. It’s our request to please send his medicines from the mediators. The delay being caused by the officials is responsible for his bad health and if something happens, it will be the government’s responsibility,” (sic)

On Sunday, the day after the Maoists demanded the release of eight of their leaders jailed in Chhattisgarh and a halt to “Operation Green Hunt” in exchange for freeing Alex Paul Menon. They set the deadlinefor the government to meet their demands to 5 pm yesterday.

Tension prevails in Chhattisgarh, and government officials are in a quandary since the deadline set by the Maoists has expired. The government has not received any communication from the abductors about the fate of the young official who hails from Tirunelveli District of Tamilnadu.

Reports say that the staff in Chief Minister Raman Singh’s office was constantly interacting with officials in the district for updates about a possible extension to the deadline by the rebels.

Hours after the statement was released, Mr Kunjam was rushed by the state government with urgent medicines for Mr Menon. Mr Kunjam delivered the medicines today to Mr Menon. Mr Kunjam is one of the three mediators named by the Maoists, who they would be willing to negotiate through. Prashant Bhushan, another mediator named by the Maoists, has however refused to take part in the negotiation process.

Yesterday, Manish Kunjam, a Communist Party of India leader and President of All India Adivasi Mahasabha, and a former MLA from Konta district, one of the three mediators named by the Maoists collected the medicines from Menon’s wife and delivered it to the critically ill Collector.

Prashant Bhushan, a noted Supreme Court lawyer and a core committee member of Team Anna, the second person named by the Maoists as a mediator refused to accept the theirproposal saying that the Collector should be released unconditionally.

After Prashant Bhushan and Manish Kunjam refused the offer to act as mediators, yesterday, in a message sent to media houses, the Maoists proposed the name of Professor G. Hargopal, based in Hyderabad as another mediator they were willing to talk to .

“I have participated earlier in two hostage crises. I believe that it should happen without any loss of life. I am thinking about going with B D Sharma. We will have to see both the government’s and the Maoists’ point of views. Why the poor tribals are fighting today. This is not just about the abduction; we will have to work to stop this. The government will have to accept the rights of the tribals,” Professor Hargopal said yesterday.

Professor Haragopal is said to be the man who played a crucial role in February 2011 in the release of Malkangiri district collector R. Vineel Krishna held hostage by the Maoists in neighboring Orissa.

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