Negotiation for release of 2 Italians begins

State Assembly appeals to Maoists to free hostages

The formal negotiation for the release of two Italian hostages currently in Maoists’ captivity began here on Thursday after the arrival of activist Dr Bramha Dutt Sharma — chosen by the red rebels to hold talks with the Odisha government.

Apart from Dr Sharma, others who participated in the dialogue process are activist Dandapani Mohanty, the second interlocutor selected by the Maoists and three mediators from the state government side — Home STecretary U N Behera, panchayati raj secretary P K Jena and secretary in the department of scheduled castes and scheduled tribe Santosh Sarangi.

The venue of the important meeting was the state guesthouse here which was crowded with the media.

After the discussions, which lasted for three hours, the two negotiators from the Maoists side told reporters that they discussed the 13-point charter of demands presented by the Naxals with the government representatives. “They will convey the outcome of the first day’s meeting to the government and will get back to us tomorrow (Friday) for a second round of discussion,” said Mohanty.

He said the Maoists’ demand  for the immediate release of one of the hostages was also discussed at the meeting.

Mohanty said he also conveyed to the state government representatives to involve senior Maoist leader Kobad Gandhi or Amit Bagchi in the negotiation process. Both are currently lodged in jails outside the state. “One of them can be brought to the Jharpada prison here,” Mohanty said.

Significantly, Sabyasachi Panda, head of the Maoists’ Odisha operations and the brain behind the Italians’ kidnapping, released a audio tape late on Thursday appealing the government to engage either Gandhi or Bagchi in the negotiation process.

“Let the government engage either Kobad Gandhi or Amit Bagchi in the dialogue process and initiate actions whatever it can under the ambit of the law and we will release one of the two hostages immediately as a goodwill gesture,” Panda said.

The state government has not yet reacted on the matter. However, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said in a statement that both negotiators from the Maoists’ side assured the that both the hostages were in good health.

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