Sukma collector Alex Paul Menon spent his ninth day in Maoist custody on Sunday after the third round of negotiations between rebel interlocutors and Chhattisgarh government mediators for his release remained inconclusive.
The stalemate, which continued despite the rebel interlocutors having come back for talks in the state capital after meeting Maoist leaders overnight in a forest, indicated a hardening of stance by both sides, which continued to remain tight-lipped.
"The collector is safe and in good condition," said Maoist interlocutor BD Sharma. His fellow interlocutor, G Hargopal, asked if they had met Menon, replied, there were "logistical problems".
His cryptic comment is being interpreted in government circles as a pointer to the likelihood of Menon's captors holding him in some place away from Tadmetla, where the interlocutors briefed Maoists leaders about the government's position.
On Saturday, former Bastar commissioner Sharma and Hyderabad-based professor Hargopal, had flown to Chintalnar and travelled to an undisclosed location in Tadmetla on motorbikes and on foot.
Tadmetla in Dantewada district is the site of the biggest rebel attack on security personnel in the state till date. Maoists had had massacred 75 CRPF troopers and one state police official in the area on April 6, 2010.
Maoists, who kidnapped Menon, 32, on April 21 from Majhipara village in Sukma, about 450 km south of Raipur, have demanded the release of eight of their hardcore comrades along with nine associate members from jails.
The rebels have also sought the halting of anti-Naxal operation "Green Hunt" and the withdrawal of security forces into their barracks.
The state government has already halted the search and combing operations against the rebels to secure the release of the 2006-batch IAS officer, whose two security personnel were shot when he was abducted. Negotiations are expected to continue on Monday.