Orissa govt hopeful of early breakthrough in hostage crisis

After two days of talks with Naxal-chosen mediators, Orissa govt said it was hopeful of an early breakthrough in securing the release of abducted Malkangiri district collector and a junior engineer.

Updated: Feb 21, 2011, 18:37 PM IST

Bhubaneswar: After two days of talks with
Naxal-chosen mediators, Orissa government on Monday said it was
hopeful of an early breakthrough in securing the release of
abducted Malkangiri district collector and a junior engineer.

In a related development, five hardcore Maoists,
including Ganti Prasadam who has about 100 cases against him
in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, moved the Orissa High Court for
bail after a similar plea was rejected by a lower court.

The Naxals, who have sought their release as one of
the conditions for the safe return of the two officials,
called for a bandh to press their demand but it evoked little
response.
As the negotiations with Maoist handpicked mediators
for release of 30-year-old Malkangiri collector R V Krishna
and junior engineer Pabitra Majhi stretched for another day,
Home Secretary U N Behera said something concrete was likely
to emerge soon.

The talks with the mediators -- Prof G Hargopal and
Prof Someswar Rao -- have "progressed well," he said, adding
the interlocutors raised several issues which were under the
consideration of the state government.

"We are very hopeful that it will be sorted out,"
Behera said.

As Krishna, a 2005 batch IAS officer, and Majhi spent
the sixth day in captivity, the mediators were keen that
certain jailed ultras like Ganti Prasadam join the
negotiation process to resolve the hostage crisis.
The issue of release of jailed Maoists was discussed
at length, sources said, adding it was possible that bail plea
of the rebels would not be opposed by the government.

Conceding one of the seven demands of the Maoists,
Orissa government has already made it clear that there will be
no combing operation against them till the conclusion of
talks.

Ganti Prasadam, who was arrested by Orissa Police and
lodged in jail on sedition charges, told his lawyer Nihar
Ranjan Patnaik that he was interested in joining talks with
government for the release of the abducted officials.

Hargopal said releasing leaders like Ganti Prasadam
could play a significant role in negotiations with Maoists for
the release of the hostages abducted from Chitrakonda area in
Malkangiri district on February 16.
Meanwhile, the National Human Rights Commission
appealed to the Naxalites to release the IAS officer and the
junior engineer.

Expressing "deep concern" over their abduction, the
NHRC also hoped that human rights defenders in the country
will try to secure their release immediately.

Though whereabouts of the hostages were not known,
the mediators have assured the Orissa government that the two
would not be harmed and that rebels would refrain from
violence as long as negotiations are underway.

The sources said the abducted officials were in
some remote village in Chitrakonda area bordering Andhra
Pradesh and the Maoists were frequently shifting the duo from
one place to another.

PTI