Hostage crisis: Maoists extend deadline
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Last Updated: Saturday, February 19, 2011, 09:59
  
Malkangiri/Bhubaneswar: Maoists on Friday night extended the two-day deadline indefinitely for the Orissa government to meet their demands in return for the release of Malkangiri District Collector R V Krishna and a junior engineer held hostage for the third day.

The deadline was extended following an appeal from the state government even as the Maoists exploded a landmine on a key road snapping links between Malkangiri district and rest of Orissa.

The two mediators--Prof Someswar Rao and Prof Hargopal (both from Andhra Pradesh)--who were handpicked by the Naxals to negotiate the release of Krishna, a 30-year-old IAS officer, and Pabitra Majhi told state Home Secretary U N Behera that the deadline has been extended since some contacts were being made with the Maoists.

Both Rao and Hargopal, who insisted that the deadline must be extended before any negotiations could be held, are likely to reach the state capital tomorrow.

Social activist Swami Agnivesh, who has been contacted by the state government, to mediate the release of the two captives, also confirmed that the deadline has been extended.

"The Maoists have extended the deadline indefinitely. There is some progress...," Agnivesh said tonight but did not elaborate. He appealed to the Maoists not to cause any bodily harm to the two hostages.

Besides stopping anti-Naxal joint operations, which has already been conceded, the seven-point demands included withdrawal of BSF, release of 700 jailed tribal Naxals and scrapping of Polavaram irrigation project in Andhra Pradesh.

In a bid to obstruct movement of security forces, the rebels triggered the landmine blast in mountainous and forested Malkangiri-Jeypor road, that connects the naxal-hit district with rest of Orissa, the police said.

The ultras also brought traffic on the crucial state highway road to a grinding halt by digging it up at several places and felling a large number of giant trees at over five places, they said.

No one was injured in the landmine blast as the road was deserted without vehicular movement due to obstructions created by the rebels, police added.

Orissa government earlier said it has established contact with two of the three mediators named by the Maoists for negotiations.

"They (Maoists) had given three names for negotiation. We have established contact with Prof Someswar Rao and Prof Hargopal. They are willing to mediate in the matter," Chief Secretary B K Patnaik told reporters in Bhubaneswar after a marathon meeting at the chief minister's office here.

The two mediators have accepted the state government's request to issue an appeal for extension of two-day deadline given by Naxals who kidnapped Krishna and Majhi on Wednesday, the Chief Secretary said.

He said the state government has also contacted Swami Agnivesh.

Agnivesh said in New Delhi that he was willing to act as a negotiator if Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik himself talks to him and the state government is willing to release the jailed tribals.

The Chief Secretary said the government would consider the demands made by the Maoists. "Many demands may come up during discussions. We are open to discussions," he said.

Asked whether the state government would agree to the Maoist demand for release of seven persons, the chief secretary said, "Those will come up during the discussions with mediators."

Hargopal earlier in the day said the deadline set by the Maoists should be extended which is the first requirement for negotiations.

Similarly, the state government should adopt a positive approach and look into the demands of the Maoists, he said, adding it should not be difficult to release on bail some persons, including women, and it is in the government's purview.

PTI


First Published: Saturday, February 19, 2011, 09:59


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