Backdoor talks on, Maoists urged to extend deadline (Roundup)

Friday, February 18, 2011

BHUBANESWAR - The Orissa government Friday urged Maoists holding Malkangiri Collector R. Vineel Krishna hostage to extend their 48-hour deadline for acceptance of their demands even as it opened quiet talks with the rebels and asked two academics to start a separate dialogue.

With no clues on the whereabouts of the 30-year-old Krishna and a junior engineer also abducted by Maoists Wednesday, a worried Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik pleaded with the guerrillas not to harm the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer.

“We are in the process of trying to establish contact. My appeal to the concerned persons is that the deadline of this evening be extended,” Patnaik told reporters, urging the abductors that no harm should come to the collector and the engineer.

Chief Secretary B.K. Patnaik said the government was talking to R. Someswara Rao, a retired economics professor of Sambalpur University, and Hargopal, a professor of the Central University (Hyderabad), to help end the hostage crisis. “We have asked them to mediate,” Patnaik said.

The government opted for the two after a section of the media reported that the Andhra-Orissa Border State Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) of the Communist Party of India-Maoist had suggested that the two men could be mediators.

Orissa Home Secretary U.N. Behera said earlier that he had spoken to social activist Swami Agnivesh and that a backdoor dialogue was on with the Maoists.

“He agreed to mediate. He has already spoken to some of the frontline leaders of the Maoist group,” Behera told IANS.

In the meantime, the Maoists snapped road links to Malkangiri and submitted a fresh set of demands for the release of Krishna and engineer Pabitra Majhi.

The rebels had earlier demanded the halting of anti-Maoist operations in the region and the release of all Maoists arrested in the past, following which combing operations were stopped across the state.

Now the rebels want that agreements the government has signed with MNCs be scrapped, a senior district police official told IANS.

The latest demands of the rebels have come through a leaflet which they have distributed to a section of media in the district, the official said. The leaflet was in Telugu.

The fresh demands also include the release of all political prisoners and compensation for families of Maoist sympathisers killed in police custody, he said.

From colleagues to social activists to well-wishers, support has poured in from all quarters on social networking website Facebook for the safe release of the district collector.

People and government officials also Friday held rallies in different parts of the state including in Malkangiri, Koraput, Phulbani and Baliguda towns to express their support to the hostages.

The issue cast a shadow on the state assembly with opposition members disrupting proceedings and creating noisy scenes, forcing Speaker Pradip Amat to adjourn the house for several hours.

The collector was going to inspect development projects without any guards after a meeting in Badapada village early Wednesday when half a dozen armed Maoists surprised him and his aides.

In no time, more than 50 Maoists joined the group and took the collector and the junior engineer hostage.

Krishna joined the IAS in August 2005 after he graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. He moved to Malkangiri 16 months ago. Engineer Majhi, from Bhubaneswar, went to the district four months back.

Filed under: Terrorism

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