Engineer freed, Collector's release awaited, talks on

Engineer freed, Collector's release awaited, talks on

After a seven day ordeal, junior engineer Pabitra Majhi was freed today by Maoists while the process was underway for the release of abducted Malkangiri district collector as modalities were discussed between naxal chosen mediators and the Orissa government to implement their demands.

"Majhi was taken by local villagers on a motor-cycle to Chitrakonda after being released by the Maoists in a remote forest in Malkangiri," Chitrakonda Tehsildar D Gopal Krishna said over phone.

"The junior engineer is fine though he seems to be tired," officials said, adding, doctors were examining him. Soon after his arrival at Chitrakonda, he was taken to the Tehsil office where Government officials met him, they said.

Huge crowds gathered at the Tehsil office to have a glimpse of the freed engineer. Majhi was later shifted to a guest house of Balimela Dam Project, sources said. Officials said Krishna too would return soon without elaborating. The two hostages were apparently kept at separate places.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik told the assembly that as per the commitment made by interlocutors, 30-year-old Krishna would safely return latest by tomorrow. While Orissa government had agreed to all the 14 demands of the Maoists, including withdrawal of cases against five naxals, the mediators held fresh talks with state officials today to work out modalities for implementation.

"We are holding discussion on how to ensure proper implementation of demands," mediator Prof G Hargopal said. Home secretary U N Behera said the mediators were also waiting for return of both the hostages and "our meeting will continue till both are back."

Behera had yesterday said that the week-long hostage crisis had been resolved.

In a related development, Orissa High Court today granted bail to top Maoist leader Ganti Prasadam on bail bond of Rs 20,000 and two sureties.

The government did not oppose the bail of Ganti Prasadam who was booked under charges like sedition and waging war against government. Prasadam, now lodged in Jharpada special jail here after being brought from Koraput, was believed to have played a key role in giving shape to the negotiation between the interlocutors and the state government.

Hopes of an early release of the kidnapped had brightened last evening following three days of intense negotiations between Maoist-appointed mediators and the Orissa government representatives during which 14 demands were conceded.

Winding up talks with the state government, the mediators had said last evening that Krishna and Majhi would return within 48 hours. Hargopal said the mediators were satisfied at the outcome of the parleys.

Behera said it was agreed that cases against five Maoists, including Ganti Prasadam and Padma, wife of top naxal Ramakrishna will be withdrawn after following due process of law.

"The government also agreed that there would be no coercive action by security forces as long as the Maoists do not indulge in unlawful activities," he said. While eight demands of Maoists had been settled on Monday, remaining six were agreed to during yesterday's talks, paving the way for release of Krishna and Majhi, who were abducted from the Chitrakonda area of Malkangiri district on February 16.

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