Anti-Naxal operations suspended in Bastar

Faced with the April 25 deadline set by the Maoists, the Chhattisgarh government has suspended the anti-Naxal operations in Bastar region in the wake of abduction of Sukma district collector Alex Paul Menon.

The state government has asked the security forces not to conduct any offensive against the Maoists in the Bastar region till he is freed by the extremists, official sources said.

The decision has been taken to ensure safety of the 32-year-old 2006 batch IAS officer, who was abducted by the Maoists on Saturday from Sukma district’s Majhipara village when he was holding a meeting as part of the government’s outreach programme Special Gram Suraj Abhiyan, they said.

“Since he has been kidnapped, there has been no video or audio clip from them (Maoists). So, everyone is wondering whether he is fine or not. There is no news. We have requested the government to take some kind of initiative to know about his well-being,” a worried Asha, wife of Menon, said.

Efforts were underway to send medicines for Menon, who is an asthma patient.

Mr. Menon is being held hostage at a Chhattisgarh-Odisha border area and is kept under watch by nearly 400 armed Naxals, the sources said adding Unmanned Aerial Vehicle undertook surveillance in the areas and reportedly took pictures of the location too.

“The state government is exploring all options and making efforts to ensure safe release of Menon,” Chief Minister Raman Singh told reporters in Raipur.

He said the state government has been in continuous touch with the Centre since the IAS officer was abducted.

“All neighbouring states have been alerted about the abduction and there is better coordination in all the states…We are continuously in touch with the Centre,” the Chief Minister said.

The Chhattisgarh government has set up a ministerial team under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister to look into the abduction issue.

State Home Minister Nanki Ram Kanwar, Tribal Welfare Minister Kedar Kashyap, Water Resources Minister Ramvichar Netam and School Education Minister Brijmohan Agrawal would be part of the committee, sources said.

In New Delhi, a high-level meeting chaired by Home Minister P Chidambaram took stock of the situation arising out of the hostage crisis.

After the meeting, attended by National Security Advisor Shiv Shankar Menon, Union Home Secretary R K Singh, besides others, the Home Ministry sent an advisory to naxal-affected states asking them to take all precautionary security steps when politicians and administrative officials visit these areas.

Earlier, the Union Home Secretary said, “We are in regular touch with the state government. Whatever support is needed by them is being given, will be given“.

Meanwhile, Chhattisgarh Additional Director General of Police Ram Nivas (anti-Naxal operations) said Menon was “safe“.

“The state police is in touch with their counterparts from the bordering states,” he said.

Maoists had on Sunday demanded release of eight of their jailed leaders, including two women, in Chhattisgarh and a halt to anti-naxal operation for the release of Mr. Menon.
http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/article3345287.ece

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