The 13-day hostage crisis in Chhattisgarh ended with Naxalites releasing the abducted Sukma district collector Alex Paul Menon on Thursday evening, after a flurry of activities that continued through the day. The Naxalites had yesterday, on reaching an agreement with the government through mediators, announced that the 2006-batch Indian Administrative Service officer would be released on May 3.
“I am tired and shattered,” Menon said soon on Thursday after he walked out of Talmetla forest around 6.30 pm. He said he was well, but was not in a position to talk to the media in detail.
Menon was accompanied by Naxalites’ mediators Professor G Hargopal and B D Sharma, besides scores of mediapersons. The 32-year-old bureaucrat was abducted by Naxalites on April 21 from Manjipara village, where he was attending a government function.
On Thursday, around 7 am, Prof Hargopal and Sharma flew to down-state Sukma to facilitate the safe release of Menon. And, on the request of Sharma, another mediator accompanied the two from Sukma. The team reached Talmetla in the afternoon, but the mediapersons were stopped near Chintalnaar.
The trio then went into the forests, escorted by some Naxalites. Once the team entered the woods, a string of the rumours about Menon’s release started doing the rounds. The first such rumour that came in said he would be freed around 3.30 pm. The state administration immediately started preparations accordingly. A helicopter flew from Jagdalpur to Chintalnaar to bring back the collector. As time passed, there was no trace of Menon. By evening, tension prevailed when the chopper flew back to Jagdalpur without him. In the meantime, celebrations began in Sukma as well as the home town of Menon in Chennai, despite the fact that there was no sign of his release.
At one point, it appeared that the Naxalites were not clear about releasing Menon on Thursday. This put the authorities in a fix, as bringing back the captive from the forest after dusk would be a difficult task. As suspense over Menon’s release continued, the Naxalites invited the waiting mediapersons to Talmetla, from where they were taken into the forest.
According to the mediapersons, the Naxalites handed over Menon to the mediators in the presence of journalists. “No top Naxal leaders were present,” said one of the mediapersons. “It was only the village-level cadre that completed the formalities of releasing Menon.”
The district collector came out of the forests and boarded the waiting official vehicle with Prof Hargopal and Sharma. The vehicle immediately drove away to the Central Reserve Police Force camp in Chintalnaar, where he would be staying for the night.
While the activities were confined to the forests of Talmetla, a major development was taking shape in the state capital. The process of applying for bail for two Naxal women began in the sessions court here. “We had applied for bail for Meena Chowdhary. The bail application for Malti would probably be filed tomorrow,” Shadiq Ali, advocate for the Naxalites, told Business Standard.
Since the family members of Malti did not come from Andhra, her bail plea could not be moved on Thursday, he added.
The two women were in the list of eight hardcore rebels whose release the Naxals sought in exchange for Menon’s release. The state government, however, rejected the demand for their release and only accepted the rebels’ demand for setting up a committee to review the cases against the tribals.
Minutes after Menon’s release, the state government issued a notification to set up a high-powered committee to review the cases against the tribals. A government communication said Menon officially informed Chief Minister Raman Singh about his release around 6.55 pm.Courtesy:Agencies.BusinessStandard.