No Maoist secret deal done, minister says

May 7, 2012 at 6:30 AM
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NEW DELHI, May 7 (UPI) -- The leader of India's Chhattisgarh state denied reports that a secret deal was done with Maoist insurgents to free a hostage tax collector last week.

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh said no insurgents would be released from jail as a result of discussions between government and Maoist negotiators that resulted in the freeing of Sukma area tax collector Alex Paul Menon after 12 days in captivity.

Maoists had kidnapped Menon after killing two of his bodyguards April 21.

Menon walked out of the jungle in the Chintalnar region in the southern part of the state in eastern India looking tired but unhurt, reports said.

Menon said he wanted to see his family as quickly as possible and he also thanked the mediators, the state government and his work colleagues for helping to arrange his release.

Soon after Menon's release, the state government said it had agreed to set up a committee headed by former Madhya Pradesh state Chief Secretary Nirmala Buch -- one of the hostage negotiators -- to review all cases of Maoists in jail awaiting prosecution on an investigation.

The agreement to set up the committee was the only agreement, Singh told The Times of India.

"There is no question of any secret deal," he said. "We have nothing to hide. There will be no deal even if the chief minister is abducted.

"There is not a word in the agreement (signed between mediators named by the state government and Maoists) that hardcore Naxalites would be released," Singh told The Times of India.

Maoists are often called Naxalites after the village of Naxalbari in West Bengal state in eastern Indian where the group started in the late 1960s.

The Maoists are demanding that more of the wealth from exploiting natural resources, especially through large mining projects, is spread among the mainly rural poor.

Chhattisgarh is one of the states in what the government has named the Red Corridor because of the insurgency.

Clashes between Maoists including splinter groups and security forces kill several hundred people a year.

But a surge in deaths to more than 1,100 in 2009 prompted the government to launch Operation Green Hunt, an ongoing military offensive by 50,000 paramilitary soldiers working with regular police forces.

Other states in the Red Corridor are West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar, Orissa and northern parts or Andhra Pradesh.

G. N. Saibaba, joint secretary of the insurgency group Revolutionary Democratic Front of India, also denied that any secret deal had been struck to get Menon's release.

"As far as my understanding goes, Maoists don't enter into secret deals with any government or even individuals of the ruling class," he said in The Times of India report.

"I have no reason to believe there was a secret deal. Also, interlocutors named by Maoists are known for their honesty. I don't think they would agree to such a suggestion," he said.

Maoist appointed mediator B.D. Sharma, who agreed to the review, wouldn't comment on Menon's release but said nearly 350 tribal people are in jail awaiting to be charged or prosecuted and their rights have been trampled.

"Most of them have been arrested without solid grounds," he said in a report by the Asian News International news agency.

"I think it is important to look into the matter and I welcome the formation of a committee. I hope a detailed enquiry is conducted after observations made by this committee."

Sharma also said tribal people aren't poor simply because they neither have nor desire an urban lifestyle.

"They don't need the comforts of an urban lifestyle because that is not their priority," he said.

"They have been ripped off of their rights and their lands and that is why they are in these situations. I am sure you will not call people poor because they have been subject to fraud and forgery."

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