Maoists name mediators for hostage talks

Maoists name mediators for hostage talks

The Maoists announced late on Monday, the names of three persons who would negotiate for the group with the Odisha government for the release of two kidnapped Italians.

The Maoists' announcement came just minutes after the Odisha government indicated late in the evening that it may soon halt the ongoing combing operations against the Maoists in naxal-hit districts in the state. This was the major demand set down for negotiations for the release of the Italians.

 The negotiators are lawyer and human rights activist Bishnupriya Kanungo, activist Dandapani Mohanty and senior Maoist leader Narayan Sanyal who is currently lodged in a Jharkhand prison. Mohanty was one of the three negotiators who mediated after Malkangiri collector Vineel Krishna's abduction last year.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said “the security forces would not take any coercive action” if ultras desist from violent incidents or unlawful activities. The state’s Home department sources said before Patnaik made his announcement, the department had consulted New Delhi authorities. The Union Home ministry had given clearance as the state  had to take acall.

Also on Monday, the Maoists formally released their list of demands to set free the two Italian hostages they had kidnapped from the jungles of Odisha’s naxal-infested Kandhamal district.

Apart from an immediate halt to the combing operations by security forces in naxal-infested districts of the state and closure of police camps, the other important demands in the list included the withdrawal of the ban imposed by the state government on CPI(Maoists) and its sister organisations, release of a few jailed Maoist leaders and activists and action against police personnel including officers involved in atrocities against women naxal cadre.

Interestingly, those imprisoned naxals who the Maoists want to be released included Subhashree Das (Panda), wife of Sabyasachi Panda, the Maoists’ operation in-charge for Odisha. She is currently lodged in jail in Koraput district facing trial on a naxal-related case.

The much-awaited demand list had come through a press statement faxed and e-mailed to the local media houses here with the signature of Sunil alias Sabyasachi Panda. The Maoists have also demanded a ban on the visit of foreign tourists into tribal dominated districts besides withdrawal of cases against innocent tribals who have been booked for their alleged links with the naxalites.

The list also includes a few ‘populist’ demands like drinking water facility to every village in Odisha, tribal status to a few backward communities, free education for students up to high school and halting of police action against people agitating against industrial projects like the Posco and Vedanta.

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