Chhattisgarh, April 21, 2012: As the hostage crisis involving an MLA in Odisha continues, Maoists have now abducted a Collector in Sukma in Chhattisgarh. One of his security guards has been killed in the incident.
The incident took place at around 4-4:30 pm when over 10 Maoists stopped Alex Paul Menon’s vehicle and took him hostage. Mr Menon, at the time, was on his way back to Sukma after attending the Gram Suraj Abhiyaan - a state government-run programme meant to promote greater coordination and connect between the villagers and administration. The 32-year-old collector was whisked away on a motorbike. The second security guard accompanying him was stabbed and is said to be in a critical condition.
The abduction happened on a remote stretch between Gadiras and Keralapal, areas that lie in the Sukma district which is a known Maoist stronghold. Mr Menon, a 2006-batch officer of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), was actively involved in the village programme and had a reputation of being a dynamic officer. The state government’s initiative, that involves the administration reaching out to villages in Naxal-affected areas to bring them back into the mainstream and foster development, had reportedly upset the Maoists. Significantly, the abduction of the Collector precedes the targeting of senior officials by the Left ultras on Saturday while they were returning after visiting a remote village in connection with the Gram Suraj Abhiyaan.
Meanwhile, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram has asked for a detailed report on Mr Menon’s abduction. He also spoke to Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh and assured him all help, including provisioning of extra security forces, if required. The Chief Minister has said that no demands have been received by the Maoists so far.
Interestingly, the location from where the collector has been kidnapped is around 200 kilometres away from the Koraput district in Odisha where a legislator from the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) is under Maoist captivity for nearly a month now.
Jhina Hikaka was abducted by Maoists on March 24 from the Koraput district while he was returning home from a political meeting. The Maoists have demanded the release of 29 prisoners in exchange for the Laxmipur MLA. The government has so far agreed to facilitate the release of only 25 prisoners including eight Maoists. It has also agreed to drop charges against 13 of them - including five Maoists.