Bhubaneswar, Mar 29: Alleging that the Odisha government is indifferent towards the Italian hostage crisis, Maoist mediators today threatened to pull out of talks if no response is received on the demands of the rebels who said they are ready to release the foreigner if three of their 13 conditions are met.
The state government also suffered a setback in its effort to free abducted BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka as the Maoists turned down a fresh request by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to name their negotiators for talks to resolve the crisis.
“The state government is maintaining an indifferent attitude towards talks for the release of the Italian. We may say good bye to the process if the government does not respond by tomorrow evening,” Maoist-nominated mediators B D Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty told reporters on the Italian issue.
The negotiation was suspended for the second time yesterday after the chief minister claimed to have received additional demands from the abductors of Puri-based Italian tour operator Paolo Bosusco.
“We have been negotiating with the state government for the last five days. But there had been no progress. Finally we have sought intervention of the chief minister and he is now taking time,” Sharma pointed out.
As 54-year-old Paolo Bosusco completed a fortnight in Maoist captivity since abduction from Kandhamal on March 14, Dandapani Mohanty asked the state government to fulfil at least three demands for the immediate release of the Italian.
The three demands are: assurance to initiate criminal action against police officials involved in fake encounter, custodial deal and rape, release of persons re-arrested by police after being acquitted in different cases and release of innocent persons booked on charge of Maoist activities.
“We have already informed Home Secretary U N Behera about three basic demands of Maoists for the release of Bosusco,” Mohanty said.
“The ball is now in the government's court,” he said.
Terming as “misleading and unfortunate” the chief minister's claim that some additional demands had been made by the Maoists, Sharma and Mohanty said not a single demand had been added to the 13 conditions put forward earlier.
The chief minister had tried to mislead people at one stage by claiming that representatives of the abductors had pulled out of talks, Mohanty alleged.
He asserted there was no basis in the claim and that the discussion resumed only a day after Patnaik's ‘incorrect' assertion.
Both Sharma and Mohanty said the state government must be sincere and serious about resolving the hostage crisis instead of adopting an indifferent approach. The state government, on the other hand, was yet to come out with a response.
“We are not in a position to give any statement. The chief minister is likely to make a statement on the matter in the Assembly,” a senior home department official said.
The situation was equally unclear in the Laxmipur legislator's abduction episode.
While the state government was waiting for the abductors of the 37-year-old Laxmipur MLA to name their mediators, the Koraput-Srikakulam division of the CPI (Maoist) in a letter to the media stuck to its stand of not joining the talks through mediators to resolve the hostage crisis.
The letter asked the government to fulfil at the earliest their demands which include a halt to all types of anti-Maoist operation, release of the jailed rebels and stoppage of rallies and demonstrations for the release of the MLA, abducted on March 24.
The government would be held responsible for any eventuality in case there was delay and attempt to buy time, the letter, addressed to Chief Minister, wife of the abducted legislator and several other leaders, said.
The communication came after the chief minister on Tuesday night made a fresh request to the ultras to join the negotiation process to resolve the issue and name representatives quickly.
A senior official said it would be tough to settle the complex issue without talks. “The rebels must understand that it is a highly sensitive issue which can be settled through face-to-face talks,” he said.