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Orissa: Hostages safe, Govt says no combing operations against Naxals

Last Updated: Sunday, February 20, 2011 - 23:08

Bhubaneswar: The Orissa government`s talks with mediators chosen by the Maoists for the release of a district collector and an engineer abducted by the rebels ended inconclusively Sunday. The talks will resume Monday.

Orissa government said there will be no combing operations against Naxals till
conclusion of negotiations with the mediators for release of
abducted IAS officer and a junior engineer who are safe and
remained in captivity for the fifth day.

Maoist-chosen mediators assured Orissa government the
hostage duo would not be harmed and that rebels would refrain
from violence as long as negotiations are underway after they
opened talks for release of 30-year-old IAS officer and
Malkangiri district Collector RV Krishna and junior engineer
Pabitra Majhi.

The mediators said "more time" was needed to secure the
release after the day-long talks amid the likelihood of some
Naxals being released on bail in line with the rebels` demand.

"The mediators assured us that no harm will be caused
to Malkangiri collector RV Krishna and junior engineer
Pabitra Mohan Majhi when talks are on," Home secretary UN
Behera told reporters while reading out a joint-statement
issued after the first round of talks.

Both Krishna and Majhi are safe, Behera said.
Stating that detailed discussions were held in a
congenial manner, the joint statement said it was agreed that
there would not be any combing operation till the negotiations
are over.

At the same time, the Maoists would not indulge in any
untoward incident, disturbance or road blockade that could
hamper the peace process as long as talks are on, the
statement said.

Besides Behera, Panchayati Raj Secretary SN Tripathy
represented Orissa government during the negotiations while
the Andhra Pradesh-based mediators were Prof Hargopal and Prof
Someswar Rao.

The Naxals are demanding among other things release of
about 700 tribals, now lodged in jails on charges of being
Maoists and release of certain key Maoists like Ganti
Prasadam. They are also demanding complete halt to joint
anti-naxal combing operations in entire Orissa-AP border
region by security forces of the two states.

"We are working out modalities on how to end the
hostage crisis and facilitate the release of Krishna and the
junior engineer.... It may take more time," Hargopal said,
maintaining that the talks process has just started.

Behera said, "We are in the process of discussions.
Whether some people will go to Malkangiri as part of the talks
process, will have to be decided."

He, however, made it clear that the mediators were not
going to the district because of health reasons.

While the mediators showed keenness to resolve the
crisis, the state government was examining Maoist demand for
release of some rebel leaders who were languishing in
different jails at present, sources said.

The interlocutors are believed to have pressed for
release of certain key Maoists like Ganti Prasadam on bail,
they said. Hargopal had earlier said the jailed ultra could
play a significant role in negotiating with the rebel leaders
for freeing the abducted officials.


First Published: Sunday, February 20, 2011 - 23:08

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