New Delhi, Apr 24 (ANI): Team Anna member and senior Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan on Tuesday refused to mediate for the release of Sukma District Collector Alex Paul Menon, saying that he was opposed to the collector being used as a bargaining chip by the Maoists.
"No, I cannot mediate in this situation, because in my view, kidnapping a civilian officer and holding him as a hostage, and then negotiating is not correct. So, I believe that the Maoists must release this officer unconditionally," Bhushan told media here.
"Some of the demands of the ultras were legitimate, and thus, the government must look into the matter and take adequate measures to address their problems," he added.
Bhushan further said that the government must be alert and not confuse innocent people with Maoists, since they become the victims of police atrocities and eventually suffer.
"There are several demands of the Maoists that are justified. When they say that 'Operation Green Hunt' must be terminated, since armed forces get sweeping powers against the tribals, this is not right. Secondly, they say that innocent tribals are being jailed by confusing them with Maoists, like Soni Sori, Lingaram and there are several other people, so they must be released. The government should make a commission to identify people who are innocent and not confuse them with Maoists," Bhushan added.
He further asserted that the root cause of the problem was that the government was allotting land to mining companies at throwaway prices, resulting in discontent among the tribals.
"The root cause of the Maoist problem is that the government is allotting thousands of hectares of land to mining companies without the consent of the tribals, which is why the tribals are feeling betrayed, since they are being deprived of their rights. The government must reconsider their approach; the land is being given to these companies at extremely low prices. In fact, the Supreme Court had pronounced a judgment in the 2G case that without public auction, one cannot give anything at extremely low prices," he said.
Apart from Bhushan, Maoists have named two mediators: former National SC/ST Commission chairperson B D Sharma and the president of the All India Adivasi Mahasabha Manish Kunjam.
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.
The ultras also want anti-Naxal Operation Green Hunt to be cancelled, security forces to be withdrawn from the region and persons against whom they allege "fake cases" have been registered, released from the jails.
In an audacious operation, Maoist rebels on Saturday abducted Menon, an IAS officer of 2006 batch, from the middle of a meeting with villagers from Majhipara village in Keralapal area of the Naxal-infected district.
Menon's 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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