Orissa collector still hostage, Maoists snap road links

Friday, February 18, 2011

BHUBANESWAR - Amid hectic backchannel talks, Maoists in Orissa Friday snapped road links to Malkangiri and submitted a fresh set of demands to release the collector of the district who continued to be in their custody for the third successive day, police said.

R. Vineel Krishna, the district collector of Malkangiri, was abducted along with junior engineer Pabitra Mohan Majhi Wednesday evening. For their release, the rebels, in a fresh wish list circulated through a section of the media, are now demanding the scrapping of pacts the government has signed with MNCs.

The 48-hour deadline lapses Friday.

“Communication between Koraput and Malkangiri has been cut off,” a senior district police official told IANS. The rebels have felled trees and dug up the state highway number 25 at several places, he said.

The latest demands of the rebels have been made through a leaflet which they have distributed to a section of media in the district, he said. The leaflet was written in Telugu, he said.

The five demands include a halt on the anti-Maoist Operation Green Hunt, the release of all political prisoners, scrapping of pacts with MNCs and compensation for the families of Maoist sympathisers killed in police custody.

State Home Secretary U.N. Behera told IANS that he had spoken to social activist Swami Agnivesh and some backdoor dialogue was on to secure the collector’s release.

“I have discussed with him and he agreed to mediate. He has already spoken to some frontline leaders of the Maoist group,” Behera told IANS on telephone, adding the discussion has to be concretised.

On Thursday, Orissa had halted combing operations in the state, as per the demands of the Maoists.

Regarding the media reports that a Maoist group in Andhra Pradesh has given three names for the negotiations with abductors, Behera said the government so far has not received any formal response from them.

“We are still hoping to get some direct contact,” he said.

Krishna, the 30-year-old collector who was widely seen as a down-to-earth official, was going to inspect development projects without any guards after attending a meeting in Badapada village in Chitrakonda area Wednesday when half a dozen armed Maoists accosted him and his aides.

According to Additional District Magistrate S.L. Seal, in no time more than 50 Maoists joined the group and took the collector and junior engineer hostage.

Krishna, an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, moved to Malkangiri district around 16 months ago. Engineer Majhi, from Bhubaneswar, had gone to the district four months ago.

Maoists are active in more than half of Orissa’s 30 districts. Malkangiri, about 615 km from here, is considered a Maoist stronghold.

Filed under: Terrorism

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