Collector abduction case: Mediators say more time needed

Bhubaneswar: Maoist-handpicked mediators on Sunday said “more time” was needed to secure the release of abducted Malkangiri District Collector R.V. Krishna and an engineer after the first round of talks with Orissa government amid moves indicating that some Naxals may be released on bail in line with the extremists’ demand.

Thirty—year—old Krishna, a 2005 batch IAS officer, and junior engineer Pabitra Majhi, abducted by the Naxals on February 16 from Chitrakonda area, are safe, Home Secretary U.N. Behera said after talks with the two Andhra Pradesh—based mediators Prof .Hargopal and Prof. Someswar Rao.

“We are working out modalities on how to end the hostage crisis and facilitate the release of Krishna and the junior engineer…. It may take more time,” Mr. Hargopal said, maintaining that the talks process has just started.

Mr. Behera said, “We are in the process of discussions.

Whether some people will go to Malkangiri as part of the talks process, will have to be decided.”

He, however, made it clear that the mediators were not going to the district because of health reasons.

Orissa’s Home Secretary U.N.Behera and Panchayati Raj Secretary S.N. Tripathy represented the state government in the talks as Mr. Krishna and Mr. Majhi spent the fifth day in captivity.

While the mediators showed keenness to resolve the crisis, the state government was examining Maoist demand for release of some rebel leaders who were languishing in different jails at present, sources said.

The interlocutors are believed to have pressed for release of certain key Maoists like Ganti Prasadam on bail, they said. Mr. Hargopal had earlier said the jailed ultra could play a significant role in negotiating with the rebel leaders for freeing the abducted officials.

In a related development, Prasadam, who is jailed in Andhra Pradesh, was handed over to police for producing him before an Orissa court.

Prasadam, also the convener of Martyrs Friends and Relatives Committee, was lodged in the Ongole Prison in Andhra Pradesh’s Prakasam district since February 7.

He and three others had moved bail applications in a court in Koraput, Orissa. While their bail plea was rejected, the court had directed that Prasadam be produced before it by February 25.

“Following the court directive, we handed over Prasadam to the local police for production before the Koraput court. Either the local police can produce Prasadam before the court or they can also hand him over to the Orissa Police which in turn can produce him before the court,” Ongole Prison Superintendent V Phaniraju told PTI over phone.

Prasadam was arrested in November last by Koraput Police and was brought to Ongole in connection with the case of attempt on the life of then Prakasam SP M C Laddha in 2009.

S Srinivasulu, former chief of Revolutionary Writers Association in Andhra Pradesh and senior member of CPI (Maoist), and Padma, wife of a top Maoist leader, were among those whose release has been sought by the Maoists.

The bail application of Srinivasulu is posted for hearing in a fast track Court in Malkangiri on Monday, the sources said, adding the government seemed to be examining possibility of facilitating release of certain ultras on bail to resolve the crisis.

After a high—level meeting in which demands of Maoists were discussed here on Saturday, Chief Secretary B.K. Patnaik did not appear to rule out the possibility of release of Maoist leaders.

“But it is premature to say that the government has agreed to release anyone now. Let us wait for the talks to get over,” he had said.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said the government had already conceded a major demand of the rebels by halting anti—Naxal operations across the state since Thursday while it was open to discuss other demands.

As rallies across the state demanding safe release of the abducted officials continued, groups of tribals blocked roads in Chitrakonda area on Sunday by felling trees in protest against the abduction of mr. Krishna and Mr. Majhi.

The Orissa assembly had on Saturday adopted a resolution unanimously appealing for the safe release of the hostages.

Besides halt to anti—Naxal joint combing operations, which has already been conceded, the seven—point demands of the Naxals included withdrawal of BSF, release of 700 jailed tribal Naxals and scrapping of Polavaram multi—purpose dam project in Andhra Pradesh.