Maoists up demand for releasing Menon, want 17 rebels freed
Raipur, April 27 (IANS) In a fresh demand, Maoists holding Chhattisgarh's Sukma district collector Alex Paul Menon hostage have asked for 17 of their jailed associates to be released, sources said after the mediators appointed by the government and the guerrillas met here Friday.
The second round of talks between the two mediators named by Maoists and two former bureaucrats appointed by the Chhattisgarh government began at 9 a.m. here Friday. The first round of talks was held Thursday.
The Chhattisgarh government has appointed Nirmala Buch, a former Madhya Pradesh chief secretary, and S.K. Mishra, a former state chief secretary, while the Maoists have named Hyderabad-based Professor G. Hargopal and former IAS officer B.D. Sharma.
"It was a very constructive and positive talk," Buch had told reporters Thursday.
Official sources said the closed door meeting Thursday held at the government guest house went on for more than three hours. During the meeting, the two sides discussed all aspects related to the Maoists' two demands -- the release of eight jailed rebels and a freeze on Operation Green Hunt against them.
Maoists had April 22 sent an anonymous taped message to media outlets in the state and said 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.
Left leader Manish Kunjam had Thursday 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 had reached him.
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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