Former CPI MLA Manish Kunjam, who returned on Thursday after delivering medicines to abducted Sukma district collector Alex Paul Menon, has said the IAS officer’s health was “stable” and he was hopeful of his speedy release.
“Chattisgarh government and the Maoists have named mediators on their behalf and the State government has also taken a positive initiative towards opening a communication channel in ensuring safe release of the collector. (In this background) I am hoping that he (Menon) will be freed soon,” Mr. Kunjam told reporters here.
The State government on Tuesday rushed medicines for Mr. Menon through Mr. Kunjam hours after the Maoists informed them that Mr. Menon was “critically ill”.
Kunjam said the collector’s condition was stable.
The State government has virtually slowed down its anti-Maoist operations in view of ensuring safe release of the collector.
The Maoists have named former National SC/ST Commission Chairperson B D Sharma and Prof G Hargopal as interlocutors on their behalf to hold negotiations. Mr. Sharma has already arrived at Raipur and Mr. Hargopal is expected to reach later in the day.
On its part, the Chhattisgarh Government has named former Chief Secretaries of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh-Nirmala Buch and S K Mishra - as its nominees to resolve the six-day hostage crisis.
Earlier, the Maoists had named Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, former National SC/ST Commission chairperson B D Sharma and president of All India Adivasi Mahasabha Manish Kunjam as their mediators.
However, Mr. Bhushan and Mr. Kunjam declined to mediate on behalf of the Maoists but the latter had agreed to take medicines to the 32-year-old 2006 batch IAS officer who was taken captive on Saturday from Majhipara village in Raipur district.
Speaking to reporters after reaching Sukma on Thursday, Mr. Kunjam said his role ends only at delivering medicines as asked by Chief Minister Raman Singh.
“Since I am not mediating between the Naxals and the government, I cannot tell you what would be the future course of action on part of the ultras,” he said.
When asked whether he was carrying any special message for the collector’s wife Asha Menon, Mr. Kunjam said he would share this information only with her.
Mr. Kunjam, who left on April 24 with medicines from Sukma to Tadmetla forest, said that he handed over the medicines to Mr. Menon yesterday afternoon.
Though he was supposed to return last evening, Mr. Kunjam arrived only on Thursday morning. He told reporters that he halted at Mesma village last night on the request of villagers there.
The rebels had sought release of eight of their jailed associates in exchange of collector’s freedom and had set a deadline which expired yesterday.
The State government last night held a meeting along with government mediators - former Chief Secretaries of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh Nirmala Buch and S K Mishra - and appealed the extremists to extend the deadline.