Orissa hostage crisis: Talks on, officials hopeful (Third Lead)

Monday, February 21, 2011

BHUBANESWAR - The district collector and engineer kidnapped by Maoists Feb 16 are safe and the situation may “soon” be resolved, Orissa Home Secretary U.N.Behera said Monday, the second day of the talks between the state government and the three mediators chosen by the guerrillas.

Stepping up efforts for the release of Malkangiri collector R. Vineel Krishna, and junior engineer Pabitra Mohan Majhi, Behera and Panchayati Raj Secretary S.N. Tripathy began the second round of talks with the negotiators Dandapani Mohanty and academicians G. Haragopal and R. Someswar Rao in the state guest house here.

“All the issues they have raised, we are discussing. They have assured us they (the hostages) are safe. We are very hopeful that it (the matter) will be sorted out soon,” Behera told reporters during a lunch break.

The talks which began Sunday and went on for several hours remained inconclusive.

Behera, however, refused to divulge details of Monday’s discussions.

Dandapani Mohanty said he hoped the government will take steps for the release of 629 innocent people languishing in various jails as they had not committed any crimes and were booked on false charges.

G. Haragopal 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.

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 discussions 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 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.

“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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