Bhubaneswar: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Tuesday announced the names of three secretaries of State government as interlocutors for dialogues with the Maoists to free the two abducted Italian nationals.
The interlocutors named by the Odisha government are State Home Secretary UN Behera, Panchayatiraj secretary Pradeep Jena and Tribe and Scheduled Caste Development Secretary Santosh Sarangi.
While extending the deadline yesterday night, Maoists, last night named three negotiators -- Narayan Sanyal, Politburo member of CPI (Maoist), civil rights activists Dandapani Mohanty and Biswapriya Kanungo -- to talk to the Odisha government.
The Chief Minister, however, voiced objection to Sanyal`s name, who is currently lodged in Giridih jail in Jharkhand, as the negotiator. Biswapriya Kanungo, another name suggested by Maoists has ruled out himself to take part in the parleys.
Following this, the Maoists came out with two new names – retired bureaucrat BD Sharma and civil rights activist Prafulla Samantaray– as the negotiator.
Samataray, has, however also objected to being named negotiator by the Maoists.
"I doubt whether the government will agree to my nomination and I have no faith in the state government," he said.
The Maoists also came out with a fresh deadline for meeting their list of demands and the release of two Italian nationals. The deadline ends at 6pm of March 21. This is the third deadline set by the Maoists.
Earlier in the day the Odisha government said that the abducted Italians safe.
"We have information that the two Italians abducted by the Maoists are safe and unharmed," chief secretary B K Patnaik told reporters after the hostage crisis was reviewed at a high-level meeting.
State Home Secretary UN Behera said the government was taking all necessary steps for the safe release of Bosusco Paolo, 54, and Claudio Colangelo, 61.
The Maoists said the hostages are safe and have been regularly given food and rest.
The hostage crisis also figured in Odisha Assembly for the second day with Opposition Congress alleging failure of the intelligence system as the incident came to light through the media four days after the foreigners were abducted by Maoists.
The left ultras have also announced unilateral ceasefire from their side and have appealed to other Maoists operating along the state border not to indulge in violence.
According to eyewitness, the Italian nationals Bosusco Paolo and Claudio Colangelo had gone along with two Indians, Santosh Moharana and Kartika Parida, both residents of Puri, to Kandhamal district on March 12 on a trekking trip.
On March 14 morning, about six to seven people came with guns when they were sitting near a rivulet. The rebels took the four to the forest after tying their hands and covering their eyes with a cloth.
The rebels released Kartik and Santosh on March 16 but kept the Italians hostage.
Top Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda who names himself as Sunil, in an audio message sent to local media early Sunday said the tourists were kidnapped after they were found taking `objectionable` photographs of some tribal women near a rivulet.
Panda also said they had enough evidence that the tour operators bribed the administration to allow foreigners to visit the interior areas despite a ban.
In the audio release, the Maoists have listed 13-point charter of demands and wanted the state government to act on those demands for release of the hostages. The demand includes the release of “political prisoners” and a halt to Operation Green Hunt.
The Maoists want the government to fulfil a charter of 13 demands including those it had promised last year for the safe release of the hostages. The demand includes the release of about 600 “political prisoners” and a halt to Operation Green Hunt.
The other demands include scrapping of accords with MNCs for land transfer and projects and compensation for the families of Maoist sympathisers killed in police custody, release of all anti-displacement leaders who have been arrested for raising their voices against various industrial projects, including Posco and Vedanta.
In the latest demands they said Tribals are not commodities and Tribal areas are not a place for the visit of tourists. The Maoists said the government should declare this clearly and arrest and punish those who violates.
This is the first ever abduction of foreign tourists by Maoists.
The abduction came more than a year after the left ultra abducted then Malkanagiri collector R Veenel Krishan along with a junior engineer from a remote area of the district. Krishna was subsequently released a week after his kidnapping when the Orissa government fulfilled certain conditions set by Maoists.
Maoists are active in more than half of the state`s 30 districts and the district of Kandhamal is considered a stronghold.
Meanwhile, India assured Italy that all efforts are being made for an early release of the two Italians when Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi called his Indian counterpart SM Krishna.
"India assures Italy that all efforts are being made to secure release of Italians kidnapped in Odisha," Syed Akbaruddin, spokesperson of the External Affairs Ministry, said in a tweet on the microblogging site.