Maoist handpicked interlocutor B. D. Sharma will reach Chhattisgarh’s Bastar region on Thursday to begin the mediation process for the release of Sukma Collector Alex Paul Menon, who was abducted on Saturday.

Mr. Sharma told reporters here that he does not support the abduction but at the same time, he will not condemn it either as the situation was complicated.

He said the news about the Collector’s abduction had already become an issue of “deep concern from countless perceptions”.

“I readily agreed to be of any help in normalising the situation especially in the context of my long personal association with people and the area of Bastar,” the former National SC/ST Commission chairperson said.

Mr. Sharma said he will reach Raipur and then Bastar region on Thursday. However, he said, he has so far not received any kind of request from the Chhattisgarh government.

Noting that he had received a press release from Maoists last evening, he said the statement puts forth a set of issues for which they want a resolution.

Mr. Sharma said Maoists have raised issues like stopping of Operation Green Hunt, halting combing operations and moving police back to barracks.

He said police movement especially in areas like Bastar in recent years has been massive which the tribals could not endure. “Tribals are used to a frame where police are conspicuous by absence,” he said.

Maoists also want that the alleged “fake” cases against tribals be withdrawn.

Apart from Mr. Sharma, the Maoists had named Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan and president of All India Adivasi Mahasabha Manish Kunjam as their mediators.

However, Bhushan and Kunjam declined to mediate on behalf of the Maoists.