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Collector's abduction: Mediators meet fail to break deadlock

Maoists interlocutors and the Chhattisgarh government-appointed mediators ended their meeting here Sunday night here but failed to find way out to ensure release of Sukma collector Alex Paul Menon who was abducted by guerillas at gun point April 21, an official said.

In a nearly four-hour long meet, the rebels' interlocutors - professor G. Hargopal and former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer B.D. Sharma discussed point by point the demands raised by Maoists with the two government-nominated former bureaucrats, Nirmala Buch and S.K Mishra, former chief secretaries of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh respectively.

But official sources said that the mediators found it extremely tough to reach any consensus on the rebels' demands and decided to hold another meeting Monday morning.

The government mediators and Maoists interlocutors had refused to share any information with the waiting media after they came out from the meeting Sunday night at the state guest house but government sources said that a deadlock has emerged and the mediators will try to address the issue Monday.

Earlier of the day, the Maoist interlocutors - Hyderabad-based Hargopal and Delhi-based Sharma - who had gone to meet the rebels Saturday with a message from the Chhattisgarh government emerged from the rebels-commanded area Sunday morning with the Maoists' reply.

However, the interlocutors refused to give any details of the reply to the local media in Chintalnar area of Sukma district, and only said that the collector was safe.

"We had a detailed talk with top Maoists leaders during our overnight stay in the jungle and briefed them about the talk we had with government mediators in Raipur regarding the two demands for Menon's release," they told the reporters from the electronic media in the violence-hit Sukma district, some 500 km south from here.

"Collector Menon is safe, we will share our discussion with Maoists only with the government-mediators in Raipur," they said.

Official sources said the Chhattisgarh government, which is desperate to ensure the safe release of Menon, has positively responded to the Maoists' two demands - release of 17 jailed ultras and a halt to the anti-Maoist drive, Operation Green Hunt.

Menon, 32, was abducted at gunpoint April 21 by rebels from a forested location in Sukma. The Maoists shot dead his two guards who resisted his abduction. 

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