Govt justifies mediation policy for hostages release

New Delhi: Days after release of two high profile persons was secured from Maoist captivity, the government today justified the policy of mediation for freeing hostages but said it was ready to hold consultations with states on having a uniform hostage policy in this regard.

"We must take a practical view of having mediation and negotiations…Mediation is a part of every government…Even Israel does it as it released 1,000 prisoners to get one soldier," Home Minister P Chidambaram said replying to a short notice question in the Rajya Sabha. The statement comes against the backdrop of release of abducted Sukma Collector Alex Paul Menon in Chhattisgarh and MLA Jhina Hikaka in Odisha secured from Maoists through mediation.

Referring to release of Menon, Chidambaram said Chhattisgarh government had appointed mediators and considered it practical to do so. At the same time, he said, "One should know where and how to draw the line…" Chidambaram said, "I have advised Home Ministry officials to have consultations with states on whether we can have a uniform hostage policy."

He, however said, "I cannot say how this hostage policy evolves….." He said the Centre has been playing a crucial role in helping states resolve hostage crisis as it was a shared responsibility. "My view has been, my view is and my view will be that dealing with militancy, insurgency and extremism is a shared responsibility…," he said.

Prakash Javadekar (BJP) earlier said that there should be no swap deal in hostage situations and quoted Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh as saying that if he (Raman) was taken hostage, there should be no swap deal.  Chidambaram said Home Ministry played a very critical and crucial role in helping the state government in resolving the hostage situation. He said the Centre played a crucial role in release of five supervising officers of a construction company on Mizoram-Bangladesh border.

To another question on whether there was a nodal agency to deal with hostage situation, the Home Minister said, "There is no nodal agency as such to deal with hostages. Terrorism poses one kind of challenge, Naxalism by CPI(Maoist) poses different kind of challenge while insurgency and separatism in North East poses a separate kind of challenge." He said the Intelligence Bureau was the nodal intelligence agency and to "deal with terrorism, we have proposed a nodal agency but that is still under debate." He also admitted that Maoists took hostage of people repeatedly and kidnapping was not uncommon.