Hostage crisis: Orissa talks to mediators (Second Lead)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

BHUBANESWAR - Intensifying efforts for the release of a district collector and an engineer abducted by the Maoists, Orissa Sunday began talks with two mediators chosen by the rebels, an official said.

Two senior government officials held a prolonged discussion with human rights activists and academicians G. Haragopal and R. Someswar Rao who arrived here earlier in the day.

Home Secretary U.N.Behera, one of the officials who participated in the dialogue, told reporters that the discussion with the mediators was on and the district collector of Malkangiri, R. Vineel Krishna, and junior engineer Pabitra Mohan Majhi were safe.

“We are discussing everything. Both the collector and the junior engineer are fine and safe,” he said.

Krishna and Majhi were abducted by Maoists Wednesday evening. This is the first time an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) official has been kidnapped in the state.

Asked if any of the mediators are likely to proceed to Malkangiri district, he said it has not yet been decided if they or somebody else will go.

The discussion, which again began in the afternoon, is likely to continue for several hours, another senior state official told IANS.

Sources said the government has also begun process of evaluating the charges against some of the rebels lodged in various jails. To facilitate the negotiation process, the government may ask its lawyers not to object bail petitions moved by their lawyers.

Although officials declined comment, sources said efforts are also on for the release of Maoist ideologue Ganti Prasadam after one of the mediators said his release will speed up the process of dialogue.

“I appeal to the government of Orissa to release Ganti Prasadam,” Haragopal said in an interview from Delhi to a local television channel Saturday. He also said the case in which Prasadam was booked in the state is not a very serious one.

“Most of the cases against him are in Andhra Pradesh and the high court has already granted him bail,” he said.

“Once he is out, perhaps I and R.S. Rao will try to intervene in the situation. Prasadam can speak on behalf of the party (Communist Party of India-Maoist). Perhaps we can find some solution,” he said.

According to sources, the state police secured a prison transfer warrant from a court and already have brought Prasadam from a jail in Andhra Pradesh Saturday night.

“He is now in Koraput jail,” a senior state police officer told IANS confirming the development. His lawyer moved a petition in a local court Saturday seeking grant of bail which was rejected. His lawyer might move the bail petition again Monday, he said.

The rebels have also sought release of their colleagues languishing in different jails in the state. At least seven of them are prominent Maoists, the officer said.

The state government Friday requested Haragopal and Rao to mediate after Maoists suggested their names.

Haragopal, who had gone to Hyderabad from New Delhi Saturday, held talks with the other mediator, Someshwar Rao, a retired professor of economics, and Maoist sympathiser and revolutionary writer Varavara Rao.

The trio met at Hyderabad Central University to discuss modalities for the mediation to seek the safe release of abducted district collector Krishna, who hails from Andhra Pradesh.

The rebels, who had initially set a two-day deadline to meet their demands, extended it by another 48 hours after it lapsed Friday evening.

The extension was announced by a Maoist leader, identifying himself as Bhaskar, secretary of the Andhra-Orissa Border State Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) of the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist, late Friday night.

Filed under: Terrorism

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