Orissa hostage crisis may linger: Mediator

Monday, February 21, 2011

BHUBANESWAR - The release of an Orissa district collector and a junior engineer kidnapped by Maoists on Feb 16 may take some more time as a key rebel ideologue is still behind bars, a mediator said Monday.

G. Haragopal, one of the three mediators chosen by the rebels, said the talks with Maoists may linger because Ganti Prasadam, a Maoist ideologue, has not been released yet. It (the talks) may continue for some more time, he said.

The district collector of Malkangiri, R. Vineel Krishna, and junior engineer Pabitra Mohan Majhi, were abducted by Maoists on Feb 16 evening.

Hours before the start of the second phase of negotiations Monday, Haragopal told a local television channel that once Ganti Prasad is made available to us for consultation, the dialogue process will be faster.

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

His lawyer might move a bail petition Monday in a court in Koraput, a senior state police officer said on condition of anonymity.

The government lawyer may not oppose this bail petition to facilitate the negotiation process, he said. After that it depends on the court as it is the prerogative of the judge to decide if he wants to grant bail or not, an expert said.

Talking about the negotiation they had with senior state officials Sunday, Haragopal said the discussion were held in a congenial and friendly atmosphere.

Yesterday, all the demands have been discussed by both the mediators and the representative of the government. The government has favourably responded to most of the demands, he said.

He also said the mediators will take up various other issues in the next round of discussion Monday.

These issues include human rights violations, displacements by various development projects and tribals languishing in different jails on minor charges or sometimes even without any charge, he said.

Today, we will take up what actions government proposes to take on some of those issues.

We hope that government will come out with some course of action. By evening, we should be very clear what the government is willing to do and how they would like to go ahead, he said.

About the status of the hostages, he said: We have come here to ensure that nothing happens to (the district collector) Krishna and junior engineer Majhi. We will work only in that direction.

There should be absolutely no danger or no harm to Krishna and other officer. We will definitely ensure that. We are mediators. We have come here partly to participate with a single mission that there is no loss of life, he said.

The Maoists, in a letter to the government, listed their demands for the safe release of the hostages.

These included halting of anti-Maoist operations by security forces, release of all political prisoners, the scrapping of accords with MNCs and compensation for the families of Maoist sympathisers killed in police custody.

Filed under: Terrorism

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