Sukma collector Alex Paul Menon, 32, spent his seventh day in Maoist custody on Friday after the second round of negotiations between rebel interlocutors and Chhattisgarh government mediators for his release remained inconclusive.
Simultaneously, Maoists upped the ante, seeking the release of 17 of their jailed comrades as against the original eight for freeing the 2006-batch IAS officer.The Maoist interlocutors — former Bastar commissioner BD Sharma and Hyderabad-based professor G Hargopal - are likely to head for Tadmetla in south Bastar's Dantewada district on Saturday for talks with Menon's captors.
Sharma said their visit to Tadmetla — where Maoists had massacred 75 CRPF troopers and one state police official on April 6, 2010, the biggest ever rebel attack on security personnel in the state till date - depended on the word of those they were planning to meet.
The government has assured to arrange a helicopter to take Sharma and Hargopal to Tadmetla. Chief minister Raman Singh expressed his willingness to talk to the rebels.
The government mediators - Nirmala Buch, former chief secretary of Madhya Pradesh, and SK Mishra, a former state chief secretary - are likely to meet the rebel interlocutors for the third round of talks after the latter return from Tadmetla.
The Maoists, meanwhile, in two releases stated why they had abducted Menon (see box) and accused the state of dilly-dallying on their demands.
A government spokesperson, however, denied the rebel claim. “It appears the Maoists were forced to issue such a statement following the pressure of mounting public opinion against them.”
Meanwhile, Menon — who was abducted on April 21 — faced criticism from state home minister Nanki Ram Kanwar.
“When even the Sukma SP was unaware about the collector's movement in the sensitive area without adequate security, who is to be blamed?”