Bhubaneswar, Mar 21: The Maoists today offered to release one of the two Italians held captive by them if two of their demands, including release of some rebels, were met, as the Odisha government asked its mediators to contact their counterparts chosen by the captors.
“One of the Italians taken hostage can be set free if the state government accepts two of our demands even before start of negotiations,” a senior leader of the Odisha State Organising Committee of Maoists told a private TV channel.
One of the two demands is immediate release of five ultras, including Subhashree Das, wife of top Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda, and Gananatha Patra, the leader said.
The ultras, who have encountered problems in finding negotiators for holding talks with the government, also sought action against police officials allegedly involved in fake encounters and rape.
The state government on its part asked the three IAS officers named by it for negotiating with the ultras to contact former bureaucrat and social activist B D Sharma who is among those nominated by Maoists for talks.
The ultras have extended the deadline for meeting their list of demands till this evening.
The Italians - Puri-based tour operator Paolo Bosusco and tourist Claudio Colangelo - were abducted while trekking in Kandhamal district on March 14.
The Maoists had initially nominated politburo member of CPI (Maoist) Narayan Sanyal, currently lodged in Giridih jail, and civil rights activists Dandapani Mohanty and Biswapriya Kanungo as negotiators.
However, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik voiced objection to Sanyal’s choice on the ground that he was a lifer and was also undergoing jail terms for other offences, while Kanungo himself was reluctant to take part in the parleys.
Following this, the Maoists named civil rights activist Prafulla Samantara and social activist and retired bureaucrat B D Sharma as the new negotiators.
Samantara, has, however declined to negotiate saying, “I doubt if the government will accept my nomination and I have no faith in the government.
In Delhi, Home Minister P Chidambaram today rejected Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik claims that the Centre had not offered any help to the state in dealing with the abduction of two Italians by Maoists.
“I don’t think the Chief Minister should be making these statements without any basis,” Chidambaram told reporters when asked to comment on Patnaik’s reported comments.
The Home Minister said that the Odisha Chief Minister had not sought any help from the Centre.
“If he has actually said that, I am very disappointed. The Chief Minister spoke to me on Sunday, I offered him every help. He did not ask me for anything. He said I am just keeping you informed,” Chidambaram said.
He said the Home Secretary had told him yesterday and today that he had spoken to the Odisha Chief Secretary twice and Director General of Police once to offer them any kind of help.
“But no specific request for help has been made until I left my office a few minutes ago,” Chidambaram said. Paolo Bosusco, a 54-year-old tourist guide, and Claudio Colangelo, a 61-year-old holidaymaker from Rome, were abducted on Wednesday in Odisha, in the first case of foreigners being kidnapped by left wing extremists.
The Maoists holding the Italians have issued a list of 13 demands which includes a ban on tourists visiting tribal areas, the end of the government’s anti-rebel operations and the release of jailed Maoist leaders.