Cadres of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) abducted Alex Paul Menon, the Collector of Chhattisgarh’s troubled Sukma District at about 4:30 Pm on Saturday evening. Mr. Menon was returning from a village meeting when a group of between 15 and 20 Maoists stopped his entourage at Manjipara village, about 8 km from Kerlapal, a village on National Highway 221.
Sukma’s Superintendent of Police, Abhishek Shandilya said the Maoists also killed two personal security officers who accompanied the Collector.
Mr. Menon’s abduction comes at a time when, just across the state border, the Odisha government is involved in protracted negotiations to free Jhina Hikaka, an MLA who was kidnapped by the Maoists on March 24. Earlier this month, the guerillas released two Italians who had also been kidnapped in Odisha. Last year, the party abducted the R. Vineel Krishna, the Collector of Malkangiri, an Odisha district bordering Sukma. Mr. Krishna was released after the state government agreed to a list of demands.
“We are organizing a search party to look for the Collector. We have not received any demands from the Maoists as yet,” Mr. Shandilya said.
“We were conducting a Gram Swaraj Abhiyaan across the district and so we had been traveling with the Collector since the morning,” said Surendra Prasad Vaid, Sukma’s Sub Divisional Magistrate, in an interview over the telephone, “In the morning, the Collector visited the interior villages near Badde Setti and Sam Setti on a motorcycle and returned to Kerlapal for lunch.”
After lunch, Mr. Vaid said, a team of about 25 to 30 civil administration officials accompanied Mr. Menon to a farmers meeting in Manjipara. “Ten minutes after we arrived, the shooting started,” said Mr. Vaid, “As the crowd dispersed, a group of Maoists came and first shot the Collector’s guard. The other guard tried to run, but the Maoists killed him as well.”
Mr. Vaid said the Collector quickly got into his Tata Safari vehicle and started to leave when three Maoists stopped his vehicle. “There were three of us in the car when they stopped us and started shouting ‘Who is the Collector? Who is the Collector’. The Collector identified himself, and they took him away,” said Mr. Vaid.