Orissa collector could be free by evening

Thursday, February 24, 2011

BHUBANESWAR - Orissa was hopeful Malkangiri District Collector R. Vineel Krishna would be released from Maoist custody by Thursday evening, while the rebels are insisting their jailed leaders be freed in exchange.

State Chief Secretary B.K. Patnaik, speaking to reporters here, said: They (the mediators) have requested the Maoists to respect the decision taken and release the collector within 48 hours.

Home Secretary U.N. Behera said, We are hopeful that by the evening we should have something positive.”

“The government on its own cannot release any prisoners. Bails have to be moved, and the court is the appropriate authority to take a decision,” a senior state official, not wishing to disclose his name, told IANS.

However, according to sources, government lawyers may not object to such bail petitions.

The rebels Wednesday put forward new conditions within hours of releasing Pabitra Mohan Majhi, the junior engineer who was abducted along with Krishna Feb 16. Majhi was freed after the government gave in to nearly 14 demands of the rebels. The junior engineer said the Maoists could release the collector in 48 hours.

But negotiators say some of the demands cannot be met, including their travelling to the Malkangiri forests along with freed Maoist leaders to secure release of Krishna in exchange.

G. Haragopal, an academician and one of the three mediators in the hostage crisis, said: “It will not be possible for us to abide by these conditions.”

Dandapani Mohanty, another mediator, was a little more forthcoming. “They want the mediators to visit Malkangiri district. The new conditions are not acceptable to us. We appeal to them to release the collector as per the deadline of 48 hours (Thursday evening).”

Maoists have demanded the release of their leaders Ganti Prasadam, Padma and Srinivas Sriramulu. They are also seeking that many other promient Maoists, including Ashutosh, Sobha, Tapan Mishra, Gananath Patra, Iswari, Sarita and Gokul Kuldipia, be set free.

While Ganti Prasadam was granted bail by the Orissa High Court Wednesday, a court in Malkangiri earlier this week granted bail to Srinivas Sriramulu.

Ganti Prasadam, however, said Wednesday he would continue to remain in jail until over 600 innocent people languishing in prisons on the charges of being involved in Maoist activities were released.

Srinivas Sriramulu, however, cannot be released because some more cases are pending against him, officials said.

Filed under: Terrorism

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