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Mediators demand review of cases against 400 tribals

Raipur: Two Maoist mediators in the Sukma Collector abduction episode today demanded that cases against about 400 tribals languishing in jails in Chhattisgarh be taken up on a fast-track mode for review and maximum of them released.

"We want the Nirmala Buch committee, set up to review the cases, should be take up on a fast track mode the cases of tribals in the entire region and release as many as possible– where the cases are minor and even where the cases are stronger because they are tribals," they said.

The mediators–Prof G Hargopal and B D Sharma– told reporters a day after the release of Collector Alex Paul Menon by the Maoists that the committee, headed by Buch, one of the two state government negoatiators, had started its work this morning.

On the demand for release of some jailed Maoists, Hargopal said the government should consider specially the release of those persons against whom there were least number of cases.

He also said the committee should take up the case of a woman Maoist who had been acquitted in all the cases against her but had been arrested again.

Sharma said there was list of 400 jailed tribals and all these cases should taken up together for review by the committee.

32-year-old 2006-batch IAS officer Menon, abducted on April 21 at Sukma, about 450 km from here, while touring a village, was handed over to the two Maoist mediators at Tadmetla on Thursday evening and brought by road to the CRPF base camp at Chintalnar, a 30-minute drive by road. The officer reached his home today.

Hargopal said the state government had made it clear during the negotiation process that unless the Collector was released, it would not be able to promise anything.

"Now that the Collector has been released, whatever demands have been made by the Maoists will be taken up by the Buch committee," he said, adding that issues which had been put on paper and those made informally by the state authorities would be dealt with.

Hargopal said, "Some of the demands of the Maoists were not put on paper because the government did not want to commit on paper. But there is a certain understanding that the government will review all the cases…"

He said, "The important demand is release of the innocent tribals which should be considered by the committee…They (the tribals) don`t have a lawyer… We want somebody to help them. There are not many people who can help them," he said.

On if anti-Maoist operations had started after the release of the Collector, Sharma said, "I don`t know about that."

N Baijendra Kumar, Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, had said on Thursday the state government had issued orders to form a review committee under an agreement to do so within an hour after the release of the Collector.

The agreement that was reached by the two mediators each of the Chattisgarh government and the Maoists at their fourth round of talks on April 30 paved the way for the release of the IAS officer.

Under the agreement, the government had agreed to set up a high-powered committee under the chairmanship of Buch, one of the two Government mediators, to review the cases of all prisoners languishing in Chattisgarh jails including the cases demanded by the Maoists.

Chief Minister Raman Singh had said the three-member committee, which also included the Chief Secretary and the DGP, would be meeting without delay.

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