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Chhattisgarh hostage crisis: Raman Singh convenes high-level meet

Raipur, Mon, 23 Apr 2012 ANI

Raipur/New Delhi, Apr 23 (ANI): With the Maoists forwarding their demands in exchange for the release of Sukma District Collector Alex Paul Menon, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Dr. Raman Singh has reportedly convened a high-level meeting to decide on the future course of action.

Chhattisgarh Government has set up a cabinet sub-committee to deal with the situation arising out of Menon's abduction by the Maoists. The four-member committee will look into all aspects of the issue that may lead to the safe and early release of Menon.

The committee will have State Home Minister Nankiram Kanwar, Public Construction Minister Brij Mohan Agrawal, SC/ST Welfare Minister Kedar Kashyap and Water Resources Minsiter Ram Bichar Netam as its members.

The decision to set up the committee was taken at an emergency meeting chaired by Chief Minister Dr. Raman Singh last night.

The Maoists had earlier on Sunday demanded the release of eight of their jailed leaders in Chhattisgarh and a halt to 'Operation Green Hunt' in exchange for the release of Menon.

According to officials, the Naxals have demanded the release of their eight colleagues: Markam Gopanna alias Satyam Reddy, Nirmal Akka alias Vijay Laxmi, Devpal Chandrashekhar Reddy, Shantipriya Reddy, Meena Choudhari, Korsa Sunny, Markam Sunny and Asit Kumar Sen.

They also want the anti-Naxal operation 'Green Hunt' to be cancelled, security forces to be withdrawn from the region and persons against whom "fake cases" have been registered, released from jails, officials said.

Social activist Swami Agnivesh had on Sunday condemned Menon's abduction, and asked the Maoists to come forward for talks.

Terming the abduction as unfortunate, Agnivesh urged the ultras not to harm Menon.

He also asked the Maoists to put forward their demands, and urged Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Dr. Raman Singh implement them in letter and spirit.

Asha Menon, the wife of Alex Paul Menon, had appealed to the Maoists to release her husband at the earliest on humanitarian grounds.

Asha said that her husband was not in good health and needed certain medication.

Union Minister of State for Home Jitendra Singh had on Sunday said the Central Government would never compromise with the violent ways of the Maoists, but is ready to have talks with them and resolve issues amicably.

Singh said the government has announced a special package for those Maoists, who are ready to put down their arms and rejoin mainstream society.

"We can have talks with the Maoists, urging them to leave Maoism, but we cannot compromise with them. We can sit and have rounds of talks and ask them to put down their arms and ammunition," said Singh.

"We have also declared a package for the welfare of Maoists who agree to shun violence and join mainstream society as we have done for militants who agree to put down their arms. We have made special arrangements and provide them a package and also give them jobs," he added.

In an audacious daylight operation, the Maoist rebels on Saturday abducted Menon from a village meeting after killing his bodyguards.

Menon, an IAS officer of 2006 batch, was kidnapped from Majhipara village in Keralapal area of the Naxal-infected district.

The Sukma district collector's kidnapping comes even as uncertainty continues over the fate of ruling BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka in neighbouring Odisha who was abducted by the Maoists about a month ago.

Menon is the first collector of the newly-created Sukma district and was known to be pro-active in undertaking development work in the backward region. (ANI)

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