B D Sharma to reach Bastar tomorrow

New Delhi: Maoist handpicked interlocutor B D Sharma will reach Chhattisgarh`s Bastar region tomorrow to begin the mediation process for the release of Sukma Collector Alex Paul Menon, who was abducted on Saturday.

Sharma told reporters here that he does not support the abduction but at the same time, he will not condemn it either as the situation was complicated. He said the news about the Collector`s abduction had already become an issue of "deep concern from countless perceptions".

"I readily agreed to be of any help in normalising the situation especially in the context of my long personal association with people and the area of Bastar," the former National SC/ST Commission chairperson said.

Sharma said he will reach Raipur and then Bastar region tomorrow. However, he said, he has so far not received any kind of request from the Chhattisgarh government.

Noting that he had received a press release from Maoists last evening, he said the statement puts forth a set of issues for which they want a resolution. Sharma said Maoists have raised issues like stopping of Operation Green Hunt, halting combing operations and moving police back to barracks.

Sharma said police movement especially in areas like Bastar in recent years has been massive which the tribals could not endure. "Tribals are used to a frame where police are conspicuous by absence," he said.

Maoists also want that the alleged "fake" cases against tribals be withdrawn. Apart from Sharma, the Maoists had named Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan and president of All India Adivasi Mahasabha Manish Kunjam as their mediators.

However, Bhushan and Kunjam declined to mediate on behalf of the Maoists. "It is important to note that the Maoists are not begging for some favours. They are openly alleging that fake cases have been foisted against named people," Sharma said.

He said that Maoists are of the opinion that hundreds of fake cases have been forced on innocent tribals who are unaware of it. They are imprisoned in jails of Dantewada and Raipur without knowing what it was all about.

The Maoists also claimed that a fake case has been registered against a number of innocent people for allegedly storming the house of a Congress leader and that all these people be released. They also have demanded that cases registered against an elderly journalist and Binayak Sen should be withdrawn, Sharma said.

The Maoist statement, he said, has expressed concern over Menon`s health and supply of medicines. The supply of medicines is being attended to by Kunjam, he said.