New Delhi: Team Anna member and senior Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan on Tuesday categorically refused to become a mediator in the Chhattisgarh IAS officer's abduction issue. The Naxals on Tuesday morning had named him as one of the three mediators.
Prashant Bhushan, however, said, "I cannot mediate this kind of a problem. The Maoists should release the officer unconditionally."
He added, "I agree with some of their demands but it is wrong to kidnap a civilian officer and using him as a bargain tool."
"I appeal to the Naxals to release the officer unconditionally," he said.
Sukma district collector Alex Paul Menon was kidnapped on April 22 by Naxals in Chhattisgarh. On Tuesday, they named three mediators for the safe release of the collector.
They named Prashant Bhushan, BD Sharma and Manish Kunjam as mediators for the talks.
In a statement, the Naxals also termed Menon's health as critical and asked the mediators to bring medicines.
Sources say that the government has decided to halt anti-Naxal operations in the Bastar district of the state.
Meanwhile, April 25 is the deadline set by the Naxals for the government to meet their demands.
Sources say unmanned aerial vehicles have given the police vital clues about the collector's whereabouts. According to government officials, the Dandakaranya special zonal committee of CPI Maoist carried out the abduction. About 400 Naxals are guarding Menon and constantly changing locations, according to sources.
"We are trying our level best to secure his release. We have spoken to the Home Minister, the Odisha Chief Minister and the Andhra Pradesh governor," Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh said.
A five-member committee headed by the Chhattisgarh Chief Minister is monitoring the situation and the government has suspended operations in the Bastar region. One of the demands of the Naxals was to stop Operation Green Hunt, but it is the health of the collector which is the biggest worry for the government. Union government sources say that a medical emergency can crop up if medicines don't reach the asthmatic Alex Menon.
Meanwhile, the Union Home Ministry has set the ball rolling for a unified hostage policy. The Union Home Secretary will write to the chief secretaries of the nine Naxal-affected states to come up with a standard operating procedure to deal with hostage situations created by the Naxals.
(With additional information from PTI)