Senior Supreme Court lawyer and core Team Anna committee member Prashant Bhushan refused to mediate between Chhattisgarh government and Maoists group in facilitating the release of abducted Sukma District Collector (DC) Alex Paul Menon.
Prashant Bhushan was one of three mediators proposed by the Maoists group on Monday. Bhushan refused to be a negotiator, however, he urged the insurgents to immediately release captive Menon 'unconditionally.'
"I am not going to be their mediator. I am appealing to the Maoists to unconditionally release the collector," Bhushan told reporters.
"I agree to most of their demands which are justifiable but the collector should not be used as a bargaining chip," he said.
"Menon is an innocent officer. If the government is serious about addressing the root causes of Naxals, I am quite happy to be part of any negotiations then," Bhushan said.
Along with Bhushan, Maoists named former National SC/ST Commission chairperson B D Sharma and president of All India Adivasi Mahasabha Manish Kunjam to negotiate on their behalf with the government.
The Maoists in Chhattisgarh abducted Menon after killing his two of personal bodyguard. Menon is the district collector of Sukma district in Chhattisgarh.
The Maoists abducted the DC at around 4.30 p.m on Saturday from Majhipara village where he was interacting with the people for a programme. They killed his two security guards before taking him away.
On Tuesday, the Maoists group claimed that the health condition of the abducted official is critical and demanded a good stock of medicine to keep the DC in good health.
The abductors have demanded the release of eight Maoists and halt 'Operation Green Hunt' in Bastar to set the official captive free.
However, bowing to one of the insurgents' demands, the Chhattisgarh government on Monday halted anti-Maoists operations in south Bastar region. Though there are no reports on the government's decision to release the jailed Maoists in order to secure the release of Menon.
Menon, a 2006 batch of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), is the first collector of Sukma district after it was separated from Dantewada district. He apparently went ahead meeting the locals in spite of the risk of being kidnapped.
(With inputs from IBNS)