The Chhattisgarh government has virtually called a halt to its anti-Maoist offensive till Sukma District Collector Alex Paul Menon is released from captivity, official sources said Monday.
"The whole focus is now to secure the safe and early release of Alex Paul Menon. The anti-Maoist operation issue can follow later on," a senior official at the police headquarters here told IANS.
The Maoists have demanded freeze on Operation Green Hunt against them and the release of eight of their jailed colleagues in exchange for Menon, whom they took hostage Saturday.
Menon, 32, a 2006 batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, was kidnapped at gunpoint from a forested location, some 500 km south from here, when he was interacting with tribals. The Maoists killed his two guards when they resisted his abduction.
"The state government is considering the Maoists' demands very sympathetically but it will take a final call on the matter taking the central government and the state's political parties into total confidence," sources in the home department said.
The state government has also formed a five-member team headed by Chief Minister Raman Singh to look into Maoists' demands. The team includes Public Works Department Minister Brijmohan Agrawal, Water Resources Minister Ramvichar Netam, Home Minister Nankiram Kanwar and Tribal Welfare Minister Kedar Kashyap.
Maoists late Sunday said in a message taped anonymously that Chhattisgarh's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) regime must free their colleagues - Marakam Gopannam, Nirmal Akka, Devpal Chandra Shekher Reddy, Shanti Priya Reddy, Meena Chowdhary, Korasa Sunny, Markan Sunny and Asit Kumar Sen - by April 25 in exchange for the kidnapped district collector.