Maoists, Odisha govt reach agreement over Italian hostage

Paolo Basusco may be freed soon from his three-week capitivity by Maoists who reached an agreement with the Odisha government on Saturday night.

Updated: Apr 07, 2012, 22:30 PM IST

Bhubaneswar: Barring any last minute hitch,
Italian hostage Paolo Basusco may be freed soon from his
three-week capitivity by Maoists who reached an agreement with
the Odisha government on Saturday night.

Another group, which had abducted BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka,
extended its deadline to April 10 demanding release of five
more people whose names were not on the list of 27 who were
offered to be released by the state government in a swap deal.

"We have reached an agreement and concluded the
fortnight-long negotiations with mediators nominated by CPI
(Maoist) for the release of Italian Paolo Bosusco," Home
Secretary UN Behera told reporters as both sides released a
signed joint statement after the talks.

Behera, who led the three-member state government side
at the negotiations, said the joint statement was signed by
both sides as demanded by the Maoist Odisha State Organising
Committee which was holding Bosusco captive since March 14.

As already stated by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in
the assembly, negotiators from both sides agreed that the
state government would facilitate the release of five of the
six persons whose release the Maoists had demanded, Behera

The joint statement said that after several rounds of
discussion, the mediators had given six names - Arati Majhi,
Manmohan Pradhan, Suka Nachika, Chakra Tadingi, Bijay Tadingi
and Subhashree Das.

The statement said the government would facilitate
release of 5 of these 6 persons.

The Maoist mediators, BD Sharma and Dandapani
Mohanty, after concluding the agreement, appealed to the
Maoists to release Bosusco immediately and in good health.

Patnaik earlier said in a statement in the assembly,
"the Maoists have sought release of six persons. The state
government has decided to facilitate the release of five
of the six."

Mounting pressure on the state government, Maoist
leader Sabyasachi Panda had yesterday threatened to take the
"extreme step" against the 54-year-old Italian hostage if his
demands were not met within 96 hours.

A day after the ultimatum, the two sides held two
rounds talks before arriving at a mutually agreed position.
Meanwhile, rejecting Odisha governments offer of
releasing 23 prisoners, the Maoist group holding Laxmipur MLA
Hikaka captive extended the deadline for fulfilment of its
demands till April 10 and sought release of an additional
five persons.

A senior leader of Maoist Andhra Odisha Border Special
Zonal Committee told the media over telephone that the MLA,
abducted in Koraput district on March 24, was safe and the
deadline which was to end today, was extended to April 10.

Besides the 23 prisoners already announced by the
government, the Maoist group demanded release of five more
persons - one Maoist and four members of the ultra-backed
Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha who were in jail in Koraput.

On the Italian hostage crisis, the joint statement
signed by both sides said detailed discussions were held on
various issues raised by Maoists and the good gesture of
Sabyasachi Panda in releasing one of the Italian hostages
during the course of negotiations.

The statement said that the chief minister made
statements in the assembly indicating the state government`s
commitment to development in the Scheduled Areas and welfare
of the tribal population.

Restrictions made on tourism in tribal areas and state
government`s commitments to protect the dignity and honour of
tribal population were dealt at length, it said.

Regarding cases of alleged human rights violations,
the government representatives assured that action, such as
payment of compensation, investigation of cases as per the
orders of the Supreme Court, the Orissa High Court, National
Human Rights Commission and Odisha State Human rights
Commission would be taken, the statement said.

During talks, BD Sharma gave some notes on certain
issues in line with the 13-point demands of the Maoists.

These included excise policy in tribal areas,
Operation Green Hunt, raising the level of administration in
Scheduled Areas, anti-displacement mass movement and land
issues, it said.

These matters would be examined by the concerned
departments of the state government and appropriate action
taken, it said.

Both sides expressed the hope that the Maoists would
immediately release Bosusco unharmed in view of the joint
signed statement.

Bosusco, a Puri-based tour operator, was abducted with
another Italian Claudio Colangelo on March 14 while they were
trekking in tribal dominated Kandhamal district.

Colangelo was freed on March 25 as a "good will
gesture" by the ultras while Bosusco continued to be in
Maoists` captivity.

Hikaka was abducted in Koraput district on March 24
while he returning home to Laxmipur.