Raipur: Professor G Hargopal and BD Sharma, the two mediators handpicked by Naxals, have entered the ‘Red Zone’ in Sukma district of Chhattisgarh to secure the release of district collector Alex Paul Menon.
Menon has been under the captivity of Naxals since May 21 when he was kidnapped from a public function in the district.
Today morning, the mediators left state capital Raipur in a Chhattisgarh government chopper for Chintalnar via Jagdalpur. From Chintalnar, they proceeded by road to Tarmetla accompanied by a huge contingent of media persons.
Shortly after 1 pm, they reached Tarmetla - 500 km from Raipur - deep inside Naxal territory – where the Maoists had killed 76 paramilitary personnel in April 2010.
The red cadre, waiting there for the mediators, banned the media from proceeding further even as they guided the mediators further into the jungles on foot.
Former CPI MLA Manish Kunjam has also reached there to act as a witness to the entire event. As per local media reports, the district collector would be released by 3 pm, so as to ensure his return to at least Jagdalpur by today evening.
The Chhattisgarh government has already made all arrangements to bring out Menon safely from the jungles following which the officer will undergo a medical examination as he is an asthmatic, he said.
Health officials in Sukma, Dantewada, Jagdalpur as well as Raipur districts have been asked to be ready for the check up. Also, an ambulance has been stationed at Chintalnar to meet any possible emergency, Kumar said.
The breakthrough to ensure the safe return of Menon came in the form of an agreement between the two mediators, one each of the Chattisgarh government and the Maoists at their fourth round of talks on April 30.
Under the agreement, the government had agreed to set up a high-powered committee under the chairmanship of Nirmala Buch, one of the two Government mediators, to review the cases of all prisoners languishing in Chhattisgarh jails including the cases demanded by the Maoists.