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Talks Over Italian Hostage Crisis Suspended After MLA Kidnap

PTI [ Updated 24 Mar 2012, 18:26:56 ]
Talks Over Italian Hostage Crisis Suspended After MLA Kidnap

Bhubaneswar, Mar 24: Maoists today abducted a ruling BJD MLA while he was returning home from Koraput district, leading to suspension of negotiations between the authorities and ultras for the release of two Italian nationals taken hostage by the rebels ten days ago.

About 50 armed Naxals stopped the vehicle of Laxmipur MLA Jhina Hikaka near Toyaput where the road had been dug up and a truck blocked the way, Koraput Superintendent of Police Avinash Kumar said.

While the personal security officer (PSO) and driver of the MLA were allowed to leave by the ultras who snatched away their mobile phones, Hikaka was taken away into the nearby forest, about 40 km from here at gunpoint, he said.  

A declaration has been made by Maoists through posters that the MLA would be kept hostage until the demands for a halt to anti-Naxal operation by security forces, accepted after the release of the then Malkangiri district collector in February, 2011 were fulfilled.

On the abduction of the MLA, the ultras said in a statement that Hikaka had played a leading role in the election of the chairman of the zilla parishad of Koraput district.

They said that the MLA had a talk over telephone at 10:30 pm last night with Dandapani Mohanty, one of the Maoist mediators, about the election of vice-chairman.  

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik called up Home Minister P Chidambaram during the day and briefed him about the situation arising out of the kidnapping of the MLA and the two Italians.

During their telephonic talk, the Home Minister asked the chief minister whether the state needed any assistance from the Centre to deal with the situation. However, Patnaik did not seek any help, sources said.

State Chief Secretary B K Patnaik also called up Union Home Secretary R K Singh and briefed him about the two kidnapping incidents.

The kidnapping of the MLA led to abrupt suspension of talks between Maoist negotiators and the state government.  

Home Secretary U N Behera, one of the mediators on the government side, said that during the last two days unfortunate incidents like the killing of a police sub-inspector and the abduction of the MLA had taken place.  

“Under the circumstances, the mediators suggested suspension of talks,” he said, appealing to the ultras to release the three hostages.

Speaking in the same vein, Maoist-nominated negotiators— social activist B D Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty—said, “We feel this is a mockery of peaceful talks and negotiation.” They appealed to the ultras to release the three hostages.  

“Though substantial progress was made during the talks for two days, some disquieting reports have been received in the meantime,” the Maoist negotiators said.  

While peace talks were in progress, police sub-inspector K C Rath was killed at Khairput in Malkangiri district after returning from a ‘jan sampark mela’ on March 22, they said.  

“While Maoists have not yet claimed responsibility for the incident, they have called a bandh today demanding halt to operation green hunt and release of all political prisoners,” the mediators said.

Sharma and Mohanty said that after abduction of the Italians the Odisha State committee of Maoists had declared a ceasefire and the state government announced that there would be no coercive action by security forces as long as there was no violence by Maoists.

“But the fact remains that when we are discussing in Bhubaneswar, unfortunate incidents of disruption of peace is taking place in many parts of the state,” they said.

However, Sharma and Mohanty said, that the talks had not ended, but simply suspended for the time being.

Earlier two Italians Paolo Bosusco and Claudio Colangelo were kidnapped on March 14 from tribal-dominated Kandhamal district while they were trekking.