Hoping Maoists will name mediators in MLA case

Bhubaneswar: The state government today hoped Maoists would soon name their negotiators for talks for release of BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka, a day after it invited them for parleys, even as intervention of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik was sought by mediators in the Italian captive`s case.

Though the abductors of the tribal legislator from Laxmipur refused to hold talks through mediators, the chief minister last night asked them to join the negotiation table to resolve the issue and name representatives quickly. "We hope Maoists will announce the names of their negotiators soon so that the discussion for the release of 37-year-old Hikaka can start," a senior official said.

Though the ultras have placed a list of demands for the release of the BJD MLA, abducted from Koraput on March 24, it would be difficult to settle the complex issue without holding detailed discussion, he said. "The rebels should understand that it is a highly sensitive issue which can be settled better through face-to- face talks. They should nominate their negotiators without further delay," another official said.

Meanwhile, the solution to the Italian hostage crisis has now moved to the chief minister`s territory with the Maoist mediators seeking his immediate intervention for the release from captivity of Puri-based tour operator Paolo Bosusco.

While the extremists freed 61-year-old Italian tourist Claudio Colangelo as a "goodwill gesture" last Sunday, his compatriot Bosusco is still in their captivity. The two were abducted in Kandhamal district on March 14.

Unable to find a way-forward on talks with government officials on the Italian hostage crisis, the two Maoist mediators, B D Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty, gave a memorandum to Patnaik last night.

"The memorandum, sent through government negotiators contains our views on different demands of Maoists. As there are some differences of opinion over the demands, we sought the chief minister`s intervention to resolve the issue," they said.

"We are optimistic about a positive outcome," Sharma said. "We have identified certain issues which need the chief minister`s intervention. The issues are related to policies and basic problems of the tribal people."

Pointing out that the issues associated with the release of the remaining Italian hostage were complex, the mediators for the rebels said they had been holding discussion with the government negotiators and that the process would continue.

Mohanty said the health condition of Paolo Bosusco was fine. He said the ultras wanted punishment for police officials allegedly involved in custodial death and rape cases and release of persons booked in fresh "fake" cases by the police even after acquittal by courts.

Withdrawal of "false" cases against about 15 persons and some local issues were prime demands for release of the captive Italian, Mohanty said.

The state government had on Tuesday confirmed that some Maoist demands like halt to the combing operation and release of jailed ultras have been conceded to. "The state government has already said there would be no coercive action as long as Maoists did not indulge in violence," the chief minister had told the Assembly on Tuesday.

Naveen Patnaik has also made a fresh appeal for the release of the BJD MLA and the Italian national held captive by different rebel groups. On halt to the combing operation as demanded by Maoists, Patnaik, however, had pointed out on Tuesday that a police sub-inspector was gunned down in Malkangiri and two policemen were killed in a landmine blast in Koraput district before Hikaka`s kidnap.

On the release of jailed Maoists, Patnaik had said cases against 83 activists of the Naxal-backed Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS) have been withdrawn.

The chief minister has said the state government has recommended to the Centre inclusion of Nookadora and Konda Reddy communities in the tribal list as demanded during the release of the then Malkangiri Collector Vineel Krishna.

Similarly, on restoration of tribal land, a high-level committee headed by the member of the board of revenue has been set up to address the issue, he has said, adding stringent action would be taken against illegal occupants of tribal land.