Raipur:  After 12 days in captivity, Sukma Collector Alex Paul Menon was on Thursday released unharmed by Maoists bringing to an end the hostage crisis in Chattisgarh marked by some anxious moments just before he stepped out of the rebel stronghold.

The 32-year-old 2006-batch IAS officer, abducted on April 21 at Sukma, about 450 km from here, while touring a village was handed over to the two Maoist mediators B D Sharma and Prof G Hargopal, at Tadmetla in the evening and brought by road to the CRPF base camp at Chintalnar, a 30-minute drive by road.

Menon, who is an asthmatic and for whom medicines had tom be rushed last week, in his first comments after being freed thanked Chattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh, the state authorities, the mediators from the Government and the Maoist side, his family and friends, saying but for their cooperation his release would have been delayed.

"I am ok," Menon said when asked how his health was and when pressed further said, "I am tired, shattered. I would like to go home."

Menon, whose wife is in the family way and is at Sukma where he is posted, about 150 km from Chintalnar, said he will speak to newsmen later.

When asked whether he will like to continue to hold his post in Sukma, Menon said, " I will work wherever government will ask me. If they want me to remain here(in Sukma), I will do so."

The IAS officer said he will proceed to Sukma only on Friday after taking rest at the CRPF camp. He also telephoned the Chief Minister at 6.55 pm and thanked the state government for its "sincere effort" in securing his release.

Confusion prevailed over Menon's release in the afternoon after the local media reported that he was set free but there was no official confirmation. It was only after about a three-hour anxious wait did Menon appear in public and produced before the local media.

Ram Niwas, ADGP(anti-Naxal operations), said the IAS officer is fine but he will receive necessary medical checkup.

Family, friends rejoice Menon's release

"I feel happy as a parrot that has just been let off from a cage," said Varadhas, father of Sukma Collector Alex Paul Menon, who was released after being held in captivity by Maoists for 12 days.

 An overjoyed Varadhas, who shared sweets with family and friends soon after hearing the news, said he had spent sleepless nights and had not eaten well from the day his son was abducted.
A celebratory  mood pervaded Menon's houses in Chennai and Tirunelveli, minutes after his release as his family members and friends burst crackers and distributed sweets to those who had gathered there.

Friends, relatives and journalists gathered at the IAS officer's in-laws' house at Mogappair West in Chennai from morning, as information from Raipur indicated his release on Thursday.

However, Varadhas desired his son should continue to serve the people of Sukma, as "one should live through the troubles and adversities in life."

Commenting on the Maoists, he said, "The Maoists should not have done that. If they had any problem, they should have taken it up with the government. My son was there only to serve the people of Sukma."

He said his son should be provided adequate security cover to continue to serve as Collector in that area. "I thank all those in Tamil Nadu and the country who prayed for his release. I specially thank the politicians who visited me in person to express solidarity with me."

Menon's native village Samathanapuram in Tirunelveli district was also in a festive mood, as people burst crackers and distributed sweets on hearing about his release, while villagers offered special prayers.


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