Mediators hopeful of resolving crisis

Bhubaneswar: Maoist-chosen mediators held discussions with hardcore Naxal leader Ganti Prasadam on the release of abducted Malkangiri district collector and an engineer and said they were hopeful of resolution of the six-day crisis "very soon, may be today".

"Suggestions made by Ganti Prasadam will be discussed with the state government and negotiations were likely to be complete and crisis resolved very soon, may be today," said interlocutor Prof G Hargopal, who along with Dandapani Mohanty met Prasadam for two hours in high-security Jharapada jail here.

State Home Secretary U N Behera also said the crisis was expected to be resolved very soon.

Prasadam`s talks with mediators assumed significance as it came at a time when negotiation appeared to have reached a decisive stage.

Talks between Orissa government and mediators resumed for the third day after two of the three interlocutors met Prasadam in the jail here.

As Malkangiri Collector R V Krishna, a 2005 batch IAS officer, and junior engineer Pabitra Majhi spent the seventh day in captivity, contentious Naxal demands like release of Maoists and tribals and withdrawal of BSF and CRPF from Koraput and Malkangiri were being discussed, officials said.

Prasadam, brought here from Koraput jail amidst tight security, sounded positive saying "now the common responsibility before us is to defuse the situation. The impasse should not not be allowed to continue for long," they maintained.

A close aide of top Maoist leader Ramakrishna, Prasadam has moved a bail petition before the Orissa High Court along with four other Naxals. The state government has decided not to oppose Prasadam`s bail, they said.

Participation of Prasadam in the negotiations remained one of the major demands of the Maoists who had abducted Krishna and Majhi on February 16 from Chitrakonda area of Malkangiri district.

Prof Hargopal had earlier suggested to the state government that Prasadam`s release from jail would help in ensuring safe release of the abducted officials.

Another Naxal Sriramulu Srinivasulu, whose release was also sought by Maoists, has moved bail plea before a Fast Track court in Malkangiri. The court is scheduled to pronounce the judgement.

While eight of the 14 demands of Maoists were settled between mediators and state government officials yesterday, discussion on the remaining six would hold key to resolution of crisis, sources said.

The settled issues included recognising Konda Reddy and Nokadora communities as Scheduled Tribe, steps for scrapping Pollavaram multi-purpose dam project in Andhra Pradesh, issue of land pattas to tribals whose land had allegedly been taken away in Malkangiri and Koraput, extension of a canal project in Malkangiri and compensation to families of two persons who died in jail custody due to alleged torture in Koraput, Behera said.

The state government would also take steps to facilitate release of two central committee members of CPI(Maoist) Sila Di and Padma lodged in Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh jails, he said.

The issue of stoppage of bauxite mining in Mali and Deomali hills in Koraput and Rayagada districts was also resolved, he said.

"We have been assured by the mediators that Krishna`s health is fine and there is no cause of concern," he said adding both the hostages, abducted on February 16, were safe.

The negotiation was now focused on the demand for release of certain Maoist leaders and tribals lodged in jails on charge of being Naxals, withdrawal of BSF and CRPF from Malkangiri and Koraput districts.

"Talks between the government and interlocutors are proceeding in the right direction and a settlement is expected to be reached very soon," sources said.