C’garh peace process with Maoists hangs in balance

Raipur: With only a few minor level Maoists released from jail by the Chhattisgarh government so far, the fate of the peace process initiated during negotiations for last month’s release of abducted Sukma Collector Alex Paul Menon hangs in balance.

The state government is only reviewing cases of those facing minor charges, while the fate of hardcore Maoists has been left to the courts.

It has reportedly also had second thoughts about accepting the recommendations of the high-power review committee regarding cases of 25 hardcore ultras, which may jeopardise the uneasy truce with Maoists. The truce has been holding since the abduction and subsequent release of the Sukma District Collector.

One Maoist interlocutor in the official’s abduction episode, Brahma Dutt Sharma, said: “If the state government abandons the peace process mid-way and refuses to accept the recommendations of the Buch Committee, nobody will come forward to shoulder the responsibility of a mediator in case of such an eventuality in future.”

Clarifying the government’s position, state Home Minister Nankiram Kanwar said: “The fate of hardcore ultras would only be decided by the courts. The state government will consider cases of only those facing minor charges.”

After Menon’s release from Maoist captivity, the state government had set up a committee led by former Madhya Pradesh chief secretary Nirmala Buch to review cases of suspected Maoists lodged in state jails allegedly on flimsy grounds. Other members of the committee are state Chief Secretary Sunil Kumar and Director General of Police Anil Navaney.

The committee has so far reviewed over 300 cases of undertrials lodged in jails of the Bastar region including the central jails of Raipur and Jagdalpur and had reportedly found more than 60 cases fit for release on grounds of poor health and old age.

The actual number of prisoners released, however, has been negligible.

There was some understanding reached on the release of Maoist cadre between the Maoists’ interlocutors – former civil servant Brahma Dutt Sharma and Hyderabad academic Professor Hargopal – and the state government interlocutors Nirmala Buch and former Chhattisgarh chief secretary SK Mishra.

The Sukma District Collector was kidnapped in late April and released after nearly two weeks of captivity and several rounds of negotiations.

As per the pact, a committee under Buch, one of the state interlocutors, would review cases of all Maoist prisoners in Chhattisgarh jails, including 17 leaders, and there would be a halt to anti-Maoist operations.

The agreement reached does not envisage release of any jailed Maoist.

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