Fate of Odisha MLA, Italians remains unknown

Last Updated: Sunday, March 25, 2012 - 13:14

Bhubaneswar: The fate of a tribal BJD MLA
and two Italians held captive by Maoists in Odisha remained
unknown on Sunday, a day after talks to end the hostage crisis
were suspended and the mediators appointed by the ultras quit.

Though speculation was rife that the two Italians were
released in Daringbadi area in Kandhamal district late last
night, neither the administration nor the police had any
information.

Police teams were positioned at some places, including
Daringbadi square, the entire night after media reports that
the Italians were being released, but there was no
confirmation that the hostages were freed, sub-divisional
Police Officer of Baliguda Satyajit Nayak said.

Though there was no information about the release of
Italians, the administration was alert and ready for any such
development, Baliguda sub-collector B S Punia said.

While 37-year-old Laxmipur MLA Jhina Hikaka was abducted
by armed Maoists in Koraput district at 1:00 am yesterday, the
two Italisns - Puri based tour operator Paolo Basusco and
tourist Claudio Colangelo - were kidnapped in Kandhamal
district on March 14.

The state government made a fresh review of the situation
at a high-level meeting, particularly after suspension of
talks with Maoist mediators in view of the MLA`s abduction
near Toyaput district in Koraput district and killing of a
police sub-inspector in Malkangiri district, sources said.

The abduction of the ruling BJD legislator compounded
the woes of the state government already struggling to resolve
the 11-day Italian hostage crisis.

The chief minister sent two ministers, S N Patro and Lal
Bihari Himirika to Laxmipur after the kidnap of the tribal
legislator.

A declaration was made by Maoists through posters that
the MLA would be held hostage till the demands for halt to
anti-Maoist operations by security forces, accepted after the
release of the then Malkangiri district collector R Vineel
Krishna in February, 2011 were fulfilled.

After suspension of talks yesterday, Chief Minister
Naveen Patnaik and the two Maoist mediators, B D Sharma and
Dandapani Mohanty, made fresh appeals to the ultras to release
the MLA and two Italians on humanitarian grounds.

Voicing concern over the abrupt halt to negotiations
between the Odisha government and the Maoist-nominated
mediators, Italian Consul General Joel Melchiori has said he
was hopeful of a positive solution, but nothing could be said
at the moment.

Melchiori who has been camping here since the Italian
nationals were taken hostage, said Italian government was
concerned about the safety of its nationals.

The chief minister spoke to Union Home Minister P
Chidambaram yesterday and briefed him about the situation.

During the telephonic talk, Chidambaram asked the chief
minister whether the state needed any assistance from the
Centre to deal with the situation, but Patnaik did not seek
any help.

State Chief Secretary B K Patnaik also called up Union
Home Secretary R K Singh.

The abduction of the tribal legislator, a popular figure
in Laxmipur area, led local residents to demonstrate and block
roads demanding his immediate release.

A rail roko for the same reason was also staged by the
people in neighbouring Rayagada district.

PTI



First Published: Sunday, March 25, 2012 - 11:39

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