HYDERABAD/NEW DELHI: Maoists who kidnapped the Sukma district collector Alex Paul Menon have named Professor Emeritus G Haragopal for negotiations between the rebels and the Chhattisgarh government.
Haragopal is likely to leave for Chhattisgarh shortly.
The Maoists announcement came late Tuesday night after Bastar CPI leader Manish Kunjam and Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan refused to mediate. However, Kunjam had, on Tuesday, agreed to take medicines to the collector who is an asthma patient and was reported to be critically ill. According to information reaching here, Prof Haragopal was named as mediator through an SMS sent by a Maoist leader Vijay Makdam to mediapersons.
The text message read: “Prof Haragopal is our second interlocutor.” Haragopal was the key negotiator during the hostage crisis after the abduction of then Koraput collector R Vineel Krishna in February 2011. Vineel Krishna was later released by the Maoists.
Sources said that with Haragopal being part of the negotiations between the rebels and the Chhattisgarh government, there is hope for the safe release of Alex Paul Menon.
Meanwhile, even as the hostage crisis entered day five on Wednesday, talks are moving at snail’s pace in Chhattisgarh. There was confirmation, however, that the medicines have been delivered to the ailing Collector, while sources said the Maoists have extended their deadline to April 27.
Government-nominated interlocutors, former bureaucrats Suyogya K Mishra and Nirmala Buch, are holding discussions with the high-level Cabinet subcommittee to decide on the government’s strategy for negotiations expected to begin on Thursday.
However, B D Sharma, a former bureaucrat and the other Maoist mediator on Wednesday slammed the Chhattisgarh government and said the ultras’ demands are justified and that everything was fair in war. Sources said Sharma’s statement will only complicate the entire situation instead of resolving the issue through talks.