Govt exploring back channel talks to free MLA
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik who visited Koraput on Friday held a crucial meeting with local leaders where the back channel negotiation option figured, a senior official said. Some elected representatives from Koraput were directed to explore contacts with the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS), a front organisation of the Maoists, for striking a deal with ultra group Andhra Pradesh Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) and to hold talks on other demands raised by them, the official said.
Some leaders have been entrusted with holding talks with top CMAS functionaries who in turn could negotiate with the AOBSZC holding 37-year-old Hikaka hostage and which has refused talks, another official said. The AOBSZC has demanded release of 30 prisoners, including hardcore Maoist Chenda Bhusanam alias Ghasi, accused of killing 55 policemen in exchange for the freedom of the 37-year-old tribal legislator kidnapped on March 24 from Koraput district.
"Direct negotiations would have facilitated the process," Home Secretary U N Behera said, adding no back channel contact with the abductors has been established so far. Noting that there were serious charges against Ghasi, the Home Secretary said the government, which has decided to facilitate release of 23 prisoners, including 15 members of the CMAS and eight Maoists, was organising bail petitions for them. Though the state government had on April 5 made known its decision to free the prisoners not a single bail petition has so far been moved in the court compounding the problem.
Koraput-based advocate Nihar Patnaik, who has been fighting cases for Maoists, said the ultras wanted the government to withdraw the cases slapped against them instead of asking them to seek bail. CMAS President Nachika Linga had some time ago expressed willingness to negotiate for resolving the hostage crisis, but placed certain pre-conditions. The chief minister also met the family of Hikaka, who were worried about his fate, at his house in Laxmipur. "With Italian national Paolo Bosusco freed by a separate Maoist group, the state government will now be able to give sufficient time for the resolution of the MLA hostage crisis," a senior official added.