Collector abduction: Seven days on, no end in sight

Raipur: As the hostage crisis in Chhattisgarh entered the seventh day today, mediators of the state government and the Maoists failed to achieve any breakthrough to secure the release of abducted Sukma district collector Alex Paul Menon after the second round of talks.

Talking to reporters here, former chief secretary of Madhya Pradesh Nirmala Buch, one of the two government mediators, said the talks were "positive", and hoped for a breakthrough soon.

Next round of talks to end the deadlock will be held soon, she said.

G Hargopal, an academician named by Maoists as a mediator from their side, told PTI that negotiations have moved forward and both sides are hopeful of reaching an agreement soon.

The talks were focused on the demands put toward by Naxals for the release of the 32-year-old IAS officer and the government`s stand on them, Hargopal said.

The Maoists have demanded release of 17 of their jailed leaders, including two women, halt to the anti-Maoist offensive "Operation Green Hunt" and sending security forces in Bastar to barracks to set free Menon, who was abducted last Saturday.

Hargopal and B D Sharma, former National SC/ST Commission chairperson and the second mediator from Maoists` side, will later leave for Tarmetla village in Naxal-hit Dantewada district by a helicopter, official sources said.

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Raman Singh said if the Naxals release the 2006-batch IAS officer, it will help in creating a conducive atmosphere for talks.

In an e-mail sent to mediapersons today, the Maoists asked the state government to clarify its stand on their demands for release of Menon, and expressed their inability to extend the deadline without receiving a clarification in this regard.