Government considering release of rebels
A day after the two Maoist mediators left giving time for the state government to take a stand on the demands of the ultras, a senior official said, "The whole issue including conditions like release of jailed ultras is being examined." As the Maoists have demanded release of about 40 rebels from different jails, it would take some time to form a view on the issue after thorough examination, he said adding, "We are examining as to how the process can be initiated."
Expressing the hope that prospects appeared to have brightened for the release of Paolo Bosusco, 54-year-old Puri-based Italian tour operator, another official said the abductors of the Italian are expected to honour the appeal made by their mediators – B D Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty. The two Maoist mediators left yesterday after 10 days of talks stating that the Odisha government needed time, but promised to be back when needed.
"The issues are complicated and the talks are yet to yield result. Since the government needs more time to examine the demands, we need not wait here. We are returning," they said. "Whenever the government needs our assistance, we will be back," the duo said, adding, "We appeal to Odisha State Organising Committee of CPI (Maoist) to free the Italian, abducted on March 14, on basic human considerations."
Meanwhile, there has been no information about the fate of the tribal MLA from Laxmipur, Jhina Hikaka, who had been abducted from Koraput on March 24. Though chief minister Naveen Patnaik had invited Maoist-backed Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS) to join talks and name their negotiators for the release of the MLA, two days ago, there was no response from the Sangha. While Koraput-Srikalulam Division of Maoists, which owned responsibility for abduction of the MLA, had refused to have talks through mediators, CMAS had earlier claimed that it had no role in the kidnapping.
"While the chief minister on Friday night invited the CMAS to join talks for the release of the Laxmipur MLA from the captivity of Maoists, there has been no response from them so far," a senior official said. "However, we hope to hear from them and are waiting. The CMAS should come forward for talks as the conditions laid down by the abductors of the 37-year-old MLA relate to demands made by them," he said.
"Since the whole issue is highly sensitive and complex, it needs to be discussed face-to-face in order to arrive at a solution," another official said, adding, "It will be difficult to proceed forward without negotiation." Bosusco, who is a tour operator based in Puri, was abducted along with 61-year-old Italian tourist Claudio Colangelo by Maoists while trekking in Kandhamal district on March 14. Though Colangelo was released by the abductors on March 25 as a goodwill gesture, Bosusco was still in the captivity of Maoists.
Hikaka was kidnapped on March 24 when he was returning home to Laxmipur from Koraput after a political meeting. Meanwhile, before leaving, the two mediators engaged by the Maoists to resolve the Italian hostage crisis, said that 13 demands made by the ultras, particularly operation `Green Hunt`, tourism and acquisition of tribal land were discussed with Odisha government representatives. The talks had begun on March 22, but were held effectively for five days and remained suspended for as many days. The duo had a discussion with state officials before their departure.