Talks stalled as Maoists take Odisha MLA hostage
Bhubaneswar: Crucial talks between Odisha government and Maoists’ interlocutors to secure the release of two Italians ended in a deadlock on Saturday after the left ultra kidnapped a BJD legislator and killed a police officer.
About 50 armed Naxals stopped the vehicle of Laxmipur MLA Jhina Hikaka near Toyaput where the road had been dug up and a truck blocked the way, Koraput Superintendent of Police Avinash Kumar said.
While the personal security officer (PSO) and driver of the MLA were allowed to leave by the ultras, Hikaka was taken away into the nearby forest at gunpoint.
After the lawmaker`s abduction, the Maoists left a leaflet at the site re-stating the 13 demands they have set for the release of the Italians and demanded that these should be fulfilled at the earliest.
The 13 demands of the rebels include a ban on the visit of tourists to the tribal areas; halt on anti Maoist operations, and release of several “prisoners of war”.
The kidnapping of the MLA led to abrupt suspension of talks between Maoist negotiators and the state government.
The rebels had earlier shot dead a police sub inspector K C Rath at Khairput in Malkangiri district, late Thursday when the talks were on.
The Italians Bosusco Paolo, 54, and Claudio Colangelo, 61, were abducted from the Ganjam- Kandhamal border on March 14.
Home Secretary UN Behera, one of the mediators from the government side, said that during the last two days, unfortunate incidents like the killing of a police sub-inspector and the abduction of the MLA had taken place.
"Under the circumstances, the mediators suggested suspension of talks," he said, appealing to the ultras to release the three hostages.
Speaking in the same vein, Maoist-nominated negotiators -- BD Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty -- said, "We feel this is a mockery of peaceful talks and negotiation."
"Though substantial progress was made during the talks for two days, some disquieting reports have been received in the meantime," the Maoist negotiators said.
While appealing to Maoists to release all three hostages, the mediators said the problems were from both sides as the government has also not stopped its action against the extremists.
Sharma and Mohanty said that after abduction of the Italians, the Odisha State committee of Maoists had declared a ceasefire and the state government announced that there would be no coercive action by security forces as long as there was no violence by Maoists.
"But the fact remains that when we are discussing in Bhubaneswar, unfortunate incidents of disruption of peace is taking place in many parts of the state," they said.
However, Sharma and Mohanty said, that the talks had not ended, but simply suspended for the time being.
In a further setback to the talks, Sharma and Mohanty opted out saying the atmosphere is "not conducive" for talks.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has made a fresh appeal to Maoists to free the MLA and the two Italians on humanitarian grounds
Patnaik, who held a meeting of top police and administrative officials, said his government is urgently handling the latest kidnapping incident.
Hours after the abduction of the lawmaker, the Centre has offered assistance to the state government in tracing him.
Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, talking to Zee News, said that the Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik spoke to him to apprise of the situation.
Chidambaram said he offered all possible assistance to the state CM, while adding Patnaik has not asked for any help so far.
State Chief Secretary BK Patnaik also called up Union Home Secretary RK Singh and briefed him about the two kidnapping incidents.
The incident found an echo in the Odisha Assembly when Congress and BJP members created an uproar forcing Speaker Pradip Amat to adjourn the House a number of times.
The members shouted slogans against the government and trooped towards the Speaker`s seat as soon as the Question Hour started. They kept shouting even when CM Patnaik tried to read out a statement.
With Agency inputs