Italian hostages: Negotiator doubts govt

A day after the Maoists named three negotiators to talk to the Odisha government on the Italian hostage crisis, one of them showed reluctance to join the process today.

Bhubaneswar: A day after the Maoists named
three negotiators to talk to the Odisha government on the
Italian hostage crisis, one of them showed reluctance to join
the process today voicing doubts over sincerity of the
administration towards meeting the 13 demands of the ultras.

Civil rights activist and lawyer Biswapriya Kanungo, one
of the negotiators, said, "Past experience shows the state
government has failed to keep its word. It will be pointless
to be part of talks if the government backtracks later."

Apart from Kanungo, the Maoists had last night nominated
Narayan Sanyal, politburo member of the CPI (Maoist) currently
lodged in Giridih jail, and civil rights activist Dandapani
Mohanty as their representatives to hold talks with the
government to end the six-day hostage crisis.

Kanungo said he was reluctant to act as interlocutor
because the mediators who negotiated during abduction of the
then Malkangiri collector last year had accused the government
of failing to implement the demands it had accepted.

Moreover, no one had consulted me before nominating me
as a negotiator, he said.

Besides naming the negotiators, the Maoists announced a
ceasefire and set a fresh deadline till this evening for
acceptance of 13 demands including withdrawal of cases against
the ultras and release of some rebels.

The move came in response to the Odisha government`s
offer for talks to end the crisis.

The names of the negotiators chosen by Maoists had been
conveyed through the media and now the state government`s
response was awaited, Mohanty, convenor of Jana Adhikar Manch,

On the state government`s response, a senior official
said the matter was being examined and a clear picture would
emerge very soon.

The development was seen as a positive sign towards
resolution of the crisis.

Puri-based tour operator Paolo Bosusco and Italian
tourist Claudio Colangelo were abducted while trekking in
Kandhamal on March 14.

Selection of mediators by the kidnappers came shortly
after Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik asked the red rebels to
nominate their representatives without any further delay and
announced halt to the coercive action by security personnel if
the Maoists stop violence.

The Maoists have extended their deadline, which had ended
on Sunday evening, till this evening for acceptance of their
demands including an immediate halt to the combing operation
by security forces and release of their leaders and some
tribals, said Mohanty.

Italian foreign minister Giulio Terzi spoke yesterday to
his Indian counterpart S M Krishna who assured him that the
Odisha government was taking all steps to secure the duo`s
early release.

"There will be no coercive action by security forces as
long as the Odisha State Organising Committee of CPI (Maoist)
does not indulge in any violence and other unlawful
activities," the chief minister had told the state Assembly
last evening in the wake of the opposition alleging failure in
tackling the situation.

Patnaik also invoked humanitarian aspect to urge the
ultras to free the foreigners in view of concerns expressed by
their families in the cities of Rome and Turin in Italy.

The Italians were taken hostage on March 14 but the
Maoists had reported it late on March 17 through the media.

The two Italians had driven down from Puri and entered a
forested area inspite of being warned by the Daringibadi
police about the presence of Maoists.

A driver and cook who were accompanying them and their
vehicle were released by the Maoists subsequently.

A report from Puri said that the driver, Kartik Parida,
and cook, Santosh, were interrogated by the police.

Saying that tribals were not `objects` of tourist
amusement, the Maoists demanded arrest of the persons involved
in taking objectionable photographs of the `adivasis`.

They also demanded a halt to the "green hunt" operation,
lifting of ban on CPI (Maoist) and its sister outfits, action
against erring police personnel involved in `fake encounters`,
release of Subhasree Das (wife of Maoist leader Sabyasachi
Panda), Gananath Patra and other tribals arrested on the
charge of being part of Maoist groups.