State examining demands of Hikaka abductors
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik today held an emergency meeting with top officials to review the two cases of abduction, particularly that of Laxmipur MLA Jhina Hikaka in Koraput district on March 24 by the Maoists.
The meeting was held after 37-year-old Hikaka`s kidnappers placed demands through a statement from the Koraput-Srikakulum division of the CPI (Maoist) and a letter addressed to Patnaik, a senior official said. "The matter is being examined. A careful approach has to be adopted as the rebels have refused to name mediators to hold talks with the government to resolve the issue," he said.
"Talks for the release of the second Italian in Maoist captivity 54-year-old Puri-based tour operator Paulo Bosusco are likely to bear fruit soon," he said.
The two Maoist-chosen negotiators – B D Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty – also expected the talks to conclude soon. "We hope for some positive outcome very soon," they said, adding the second Italian hostage was in good health.
While the extremists freed Italian tourist Claudio Colangelo as a "goodwill gesture" on Sunday, his compatriot Bosusco is still in their captivity. The two were abducted in Kandhamal district on March 14.
The kidnappers of Hikaka in their statement yesterday warned that the life of the tribal MLA would be in danger if then government attempts to search or secure his release through any operation by security forces. The statement couched in Telugu listed demands including halt to combing operation and release of several rebels and tribals lodged in jails in Koraput, Malkangiri and Berhampur.
Refusing to hold talks through mediators on their demands for release of Hikaka, it asked the Odisha government to make known its stand through media. The communication bearing the name of the abducted legislator and demands of the ultras had been received late last evening.
While the state government is yet to respond to the demands of the Maoist group which has abducted the MLA, talks were held with mediators engaged by another rebel group holding Bosusco captive.
Normalcy returned to the state Assembly today with the Speaker admitting an adjournment notice by opposition Congress on the issue of the MLA`s abduction.
As the notice for adjournment motion on "MLA abducted, does government exist?" had not been entertained earlier, the House was paralysed on Saturday and yesterday and witnessed uproar with Congress members storming the well shouting slogans against the BJD government.
The Congress leaders alleged that the ruling BJD had entered into a "secret agreement" with Maoist-backed outfit, Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha for the zilla parishad chairman`s election in Koraput. They further alleged that the MLA was abducted as demands of the rebel-backed outfit, contained in the agreement, were not fulfilled.
Meanwhile, after being released by the Maoists, Claudio Colangelo left yesterday for Delhi along with Italian Consul General Joel Melchiori on way to his country, sources said. Sharma said talks for 54-year-old Bosusco`s release were held in a cordial atmosphere and "there are certain issues which need to be finalised".
Talks for ending the Italian hostage crisis had been suspended after the abduction of the BJD MLA in Koraput on March 24 and the process was resumed on Monday. Besides U N Behera, Odisha government was represented by Panchayati Raj secretary P K Jena and ST & SC secretary S K Sarangi at the negotiation with rebel mediators.
As MLA Hikaka was abducted by a separate rebel outfit in Koraput district, the matter relating to his release was not discussed with mediators Sharma and Mohanty. Moreover, the abductors of Hikaka while refusing to hold any talks through negotiators want the state government to implement their demands. However, Mohanty said there was information that the abducted legislator was "safe and secure".