Sukma collector Alex Paul Menon to be freed on Thursday

Sukma Collector Alex Paul Menon, will be freed on Thursday according to a late night statement released by Maoists.

“We are ready to hand over Menon on May 3 in front of people of Tadmetla.” The 32-year-old IAS officer, who was abducted on April 21, will be handed over to the two mediators of the Maoists. “Our mediators B D Sharma and G Hargopal had come to an agreement with the Chhattisgarh government for release of our prisoners from various jails of Chhattisgarh”, it said.

We are thankful to our mediators who did their level best,” the statement said. The breakthrough to ensure the safe return of Menon came in the form of an agreement between the mediators of the two sides at their fourth round of talks yesterday.

Under this, Government has agreed to set up a high- powered committee headed by Nirmala Buch, one of the two Government mediators, to review the cases of all prisoners languishing in Chattisgarh jails including the cases demanded by the Maoists.

The Maoists had earlier demanded release of eight of their jailed leaders and an immediate halt to operations by security forces against them for the release of Menon. N Baijendra Kumar, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister Raman Singh, told that the agreement has paved way for Menon’s release.

He said Sharma and Hargopal — met the Chief Minister this morning during which they were complimented for helping find a solution to end the hostage crisis. Sharma later said the naxals have been apprised about the agreement, under which the mediators nominated by Maoists have agreed as a “gesture of goodwill” to ensure the safe return of Menon within 48 hours.

This has now been extended by a day. Meanwhile, a worried Asha, who has been eagerly awaiting for the release of her kidnapped husband expressed happiness over the agreement and hoped that Menon will return soon to his family. Menon was taken captive from Majhipara village in Sukma district when he was holding a meeting as part of the government’s special Gram Suraj Abhiyan.

“Maoist interlocutors G. Hargopal and B.D. Sharma communicated to the Maoists Tuesday that they had signed an agreement Monday night with mediators appointed by the Chhattisgarh government, and it is believed the rebels have no objection to releasing Menon by Wednesday,” a top official source told IANS.

Chief Minister Raman Singh chaired a cabinet meeting Tuesday that approved the agreement signed between the two sides for release of Menon.

The mediators from the government as well as the Maoists had signed a two-page draft agreement Monday night and the chief minister hurriedly convened a press conference to announce that “Alex would be released within 48 hours”.

The Maoist interlocutors and government mediators Nirmala Buch and S.K. Mishra agreed to form a high-powered review committee headed by Buch, to consider cases of Maoists lodged in various jails in the state.

Meanwhile, the Maoists interlocutors met Chief Minister Raman Singh at state secretariat and he appreciated their role in reaching into agreement for brightening strong hope for Menon’s release.

The interlocutors later told media persons Tuesday evening that the agreement had been communicated to the Maoists and their reaction was keenly awaited.

Menon, 32, a 2006 batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, has been held hostage by Maoist since April 21. The official was abducted at gunpoint by rebels from a forested location in Sukma district, some 500 km south from here, while he was interacting with tribals.