Alex Paul Menon, Collector of Sukma District, Chhattisgarh.
Alex Paul Menon, District Collector of Sukma, Chhattisgarh, abducted by the Maoist on 21 rebels is an asthma patient, and the abductors informed the Chhattisgarh government that their hostage was critically ill.
The Maoist insurgents wanted Mr. Manish Kunjam, a Communist Party of India leader and President of All India Adivasi Mahasabha, and a former MLA from Konta district as one of the mediators acceptable to them to negotiate the release of Alex Paul Menon who was held hostage by them.
But Manish Kunjam was reluctant to act as a mediator.
“Some reporters had suggested that I should take medicines for Menon after I declined to mediate on behalf of the Maoists. The chief minister of Chhattisgarh also asked me if I could go with the medicines. It was important as the Maoists had said in a statement that he was critical,” said Kunjam.
Kunjam said he rode about 150-175 km on a motorcycle to the jungles and back to deliver the medicines. The Maoists met him beyond Tadmetla village.
When reporters questioned him these were some of his replies:
“He got the medicines on Wednesday afternoon.”
“I did what I was asked to do — I went and gave the medicines.”
“I could not meet Mr Menon. I delivered the medicines to the Naxal leaders, who said the district magistrate is fine. I have accomplished the task assigned to me by the Chhattisgarh government “
“I was there to deliver medicines for Menon, not to act as a messenger. Also I have been kept out of the dialogue process and hence cannot comment on this matter.”
“The Chhattisgarh government has also taken some positive steps. I hope he will be freed soon.”
After delivering the medicine, Manish Kunjam went to his his native village Ramaram.
Negotiations under way
On April 22 the Maoists sent an anonymous taped message to media outlets in the state. The message asked the Chhattisgarh government to free eight key leaders: Marakam Gopannam, Nirmal Akka, Devpal Chandra Shekher Reddy, Shanti Priya Reddy, Meena Chowdhary, Korasa Sunny, Markan Sunny and Asit Kumar Sen who are in jail now.
To negotiate the release of of Alex Paul Menon the Maoists named the following three as acceptable to them:
- Manish Kunjam,a Communist Party of India leader and President of All India Adivasi Mahasabha, and a former MLA from Konta district.
- Prashant Bhushan, a noted Supreme Court lawyer and a core committee member of Team Anna.
- B.D. Sharma, former commissioner for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, one of India’s foremost experts on tribal issues and a former Collector of undivided Bastar.
The Chhattisgarh government, in turn named the following two as the government representatives:
- Suyogya Kumar Mishra, former Chief Secretary of Chhattisgarh
- Nirmala Buch, former Union Secretary and Chief Secretary of Madhya Pradesh
Out of the three named by the Moists only B.D. Sharma agreed to get involved in the mediation. The Maoists then proposed the name of Professor G. Hargopal, based in Hyderabad as another mediator they were willing to talk to.
The first round of talks between the Maoists and the four negotiators – the two mediators named by Maoists and two former bureaucrats appointed by the Chhattisgarh government, for the release of Alex Paul Menon was held on Thursday.
During the meeting, the two sides discussed all aspects related to the Maoists’ two demands:
- the release of eight jailed rebels
- a freeze on “Operation Green Hunt” against them.
Official sources said the closed door meeting on Thursday held at the government guest house went on for more than three hours and the talks are proceeding in a positive direction.
“It was a very constructive and positive talk,” Nirmala Buch told reporters on Thursday.
The second round of talks of talks began at 9 am on Friday.