RAIPUR: Maoist rebels Saturday abducted the Sukma district collector in Chhattisgarh and shot dead his two guards who tried to resist them, police said. The collector's wife has appealed to the guerrillas to free his ailing husband.
Alex Paul Menon, 32, an Indian Administrative Service officer of the 2006 batch, was abducted by nearly a dozen Maoists from a government-function organised in an interior belt, some 500 km south of state capital Raipur, said officials at the police headquarters here.
The Maoists, who were present at the function in plain clothes, walked up to the collector around 4.45 p.m. and tried to take him with them. When Menon's two guards tried to resist them, the rebels shot them dead, an official said.
Asha Menon, wife the abducted collector, urged the Maoists to release her husband.
"I believe the government will do the best for my husband's safe release but I appeal to the Maoists to please release him immediately as he has some health problem and is not carrying medicines," she told a news channel.
The collector was taken to a forested area. "Chhattisgarh police are not capable of conducting any offensive in the area where the collector was kidnapped. The terrain is dotted with landmines and the drive may irritate rebels who could harm the collector," said an official.
Chhattisgarh's Director General of Police Anil M. Navaney convened an emergency meeting here on the issue.
The state government has issued an alert in the areas adjoining Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, which share their border with Sukma district.
"The collector has been kidnapped by over a dozen Maoists. The Maoists waited for the collector for over an hour at the government function in Kerlapal area," a police official based in the state's troubled Bastar region told IANS.
Sukma district is part of the Bastar region and the district was carved out in January this year from Dantewada district.
The abduction came just a day after the Maoists carried out a deadly attack on a convoy of state's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Mahesh Gagda and Bijapur District Collector Rajat Kumar in his district, killing three people.
Chief Minister Raman Singh and Home Minister Nankiram Kanwar have appealed to the guerrillas to release the collector immediately. They described the incident as an act of "cowardice".
The state government is facing criticism from the opposition Congress for pushing the officials since April 18 to visit the Maoist-affected areas to make rural drive 'Gram Suraj' successful.
The government has refused to suspend the two-phased drive that will conclude April 27.
Officials said Menon defied police-suggested advice while undertaking visits for the Gram Suraj schemes in Maoist-affected areas.
"There was a clear instruction sent out to all district police chiefs and collectors this week to not take security risk to sneak into Maoist-affected areas for Gram Suraj," said an official of the state intelligence bureau, hinting that there were inputs that the rebels were looking to abduct officials to seek release of their jailed cadre.
"But Menon despite knowing all facts entered the Maoists' base with just two bodyguards," the official said.
The abducted collector's wife refused to make any comments on a question by a TV reporter whether her husband was provided adequate security.
Amid Asha's appeal to the Maoists, Raman Singh told reporters: "I will do the best to secure the release of the young IAS officer."