Sukma/ Chennai: Sukma Collector Alex Paul Menon, who was kidnapped by Maoists in Chhattisgrah almost two weeks ago, has been released by his abductors. Mr Menon will reach his home in Sukma on Friday morning. Here are top 10 developments:
1) On being released the Collector, seemingly in good health, only said,"I am fine. I will speak after a day. I want to go home to my family first."
2) Hours later, Mr Menon's wife Asha told NDTV that the Collector is concerned about the families of the two policemen, who were killed during her abduction, adding that she will support her husband if he wants to remain in Sukma.
3) Menon's release came as a huge relief to his family. While his wife said the news of the release came as a "surprise", Mr Menon's father-in-law TR Venugopal had tears of joy. He told NDTV that he is overjoyed with the news of the release of his son-in-law. Earlier, in the morning he had said he woke up early this morning, had an oil bath, considered auspicious and distributed sweets in anticipation.
4) The release also brought relief to the Chhattisgarh government. Chief Minister Raman Singh said he had spoken on phone to the Sukma Collector. Addressing media persons in Ranchi, Mr Singh said he had advised Mr Menon not to travel much and take rest.
5) The 32-year-old IAS officer was today handed over to two mediators - BD Sharma and Professor G Hargopal - who represented the Maoists in their talks with the Chhattisgarh government at Tadmetla. With them is former MLA from Konta district, Manish Kunjam. Mr Menon was abducted on April 21 this year from a meeting in a Sukma village.
6) Helicopters had been waiting all day in Chintalnar, close to Tadmetla, a rebel-dominated forested area in the Sukma district. But with dusk falling, the choppers had to move back to Jagdalpur as they are not equipped to fly in the area in the night. This meant Mr Menon had to go home to Sukma, 85 km away, by very bad road.
7) Mr Menon's wife, Asha, along with her mother and Mr Menon's brother Anand watched television anxiously throughout the day awaiting his return. Mango leaves had been strung up at his white and red house, in welcome and celebration. As the first visuals of Mr Menon were beamed on TV, everyone gathered at his home ran out in joy.
8) On Tuesday evening, the Maoists had issued a statement to the BBC saying they would hand over the Collector to the mediators today, May 3. They left Raipur in a helicopter a little before 8 this morning and reached Chintalnar by 8:30 am. At Chintalnar, there were joined by former MLA from Konta district, Manish Kunjam, to accompany them to Tadmetla, a rebel-dominated forested area in the Sukma district where the Maoists said they would release the Collector.
9) There were several rounds of negotiations before the Maoists agreed to release the Collector under a pact that the state will set up a committee headed by Nirmala Buch, one of the two government mediators, to review the cases of all prisoners languishing in Chhattisgarh jails, including 17 jailed Maoist leaders. Mr Menon's abductors had initially demanded the release of these 17 people, a halt to the anti-Maoist offensive and sending security forces in Bastar back to the barracks, in exchange for Mr Menon. But the agreement finally reached does not envisage the release of any jailed Maoists.
10) Mr Menon is an asthma patient and when he was abducted his wife had said he had medicines to last him about two days. Last week, the Maoists sent an e-mail to the media, explaining why they had kidnapped Mr Menon. The e-mail said that the Sukma Collector was engaged in anti-Maoist activities in the region; which is why he became their target. Mr Menon is said to be very popular in the area.