Orissa collector released by Maoists (Third Lead)

By Jatindra Dash, IANS
Thursday, February 24, 2011

BHUBANESWAR - Maoist rebels in Orissa Thursday released Malkangiri District Collector R. Vineel Krishna after keeping him in captivity for eight days. Thousands of people gathered to greet the official as he reached his home in the night, a pointer to the development work he has done among the poor and tribals.

“He is released. We spoke to him,” state Panchayati Raj Secretary S.N. Tripathy, who was one of the officials involved in the negotiations, told IANS.

Home Secretary U.N. Behera said: We all are happy. He also said whatever commitments the government has made to the mediators will be kept. Whatever agreements have been made, we will put forth them before the government and try to implement them. We will implement them, he said.

The rebels handed over Krishna to some select mediapersons near a village in Chitrakonda area, about 700 km from Bhubaneswar, from where he and a junior engineer were abducted Feb 16, a source said. The junior engineer was released Wednesday.

As soon as news of Krishna’s release reached the district headquarters town of Malkangiri, 618 km from here, people and relatives distributed sweets among those gathered near his official residence.

Thousands of people were seen outside his home when he reached his official residence at around 9.30 p.m. People were shouting slogans and greeting him waving their hands.

After his release, the collector told a local television channel over phone that he is thankful to the people for extending their solidarity. “I am thankful to all of you. I am thankful at the way you extended support.”

Asked if he was tortured physically or mentally or if he faced any difficulty during his days in captivity, Krishna said no. There was no difficulty. He said he will remain grateful to the people for their support to him.

However, he said during the captivity the thought crossed his mind that from now on officials will be afraid to come to work in a district like Malkangiri. He also said he will continue to do the good work if he stays in Malkangiri as collector.

Krishnas father Ram Babu was happy at the release. I came to know about his release from television. It was a great relief for all of us, he told reporters.

The development came as a big relief for the state authorities who were baffled after the rebels put forward a fresh set of demands Wednesday for the release.

Agreeing to one of their demands, the Orissa government Thursday rushed two mediators to the region for further negotiations with the Maoists. G. Haragopal and Dandapani Mohanty were flown in a state helicopter to Koraput, bordering Malkangiri.

The Maoists were demanding release of several of their jailed colleagues, one was rebel ideologue Ganti Prasadam. Prasadam was released on bail Wednesday. Another top Maoists has been granted bail in one case, but will have to stay in prison as he has more cases against him. More than a dozen jailed Maoists have moved for bail.

The state government is likely to facilitate their bail and the government lawyers will not object, officials said.

Krishna and Majhi were abducted by the Maoists Feb 16. The Maoists, in a letter to the government, listed 14 demands for the safe release of the two hostages.

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

The government agreed to all the demands after holding negotiations for several days in state capital with the three mediators Dandapani Mohanty and academicians G. Haragopal and R. Someswar Rao, chosen by the Maoists.

Filed under: Terrorism

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