The Naveen Patnaik government’s acceptance, declared by state Home Secretary U N Behera, will deliver a body blow to on-going counter-insurgency operations in not just Orissa but other states affected by Maoist violence.
“All anti-Naxal combing operations in the state will be stopped,” Behera said, adding that the state government was ready to talk to the Maoists anywhere they want. “They can talk to us at the district or state levels,” he said.
The government’s decision to end all operations against the Maoists was arrived at after it weighed all options to secure the release of the IAS officer, R Vineel Krishna, who originally hails from Andhra Pradesh and has relatives living in Bangalore. Malkangiri District Collector R Vineel Krishna was abducted on Wednesday when he left the district headquarters to attend an official function at Badapada panchayat. Once the function ended, he visited the nearby Raligara panchayat on a motorcycle with two junior engineers to review some of the development activities taken up by the district administration.
While returning, the three were allegedly surrounded and then captured by about 50 Maoists. Subsequently, one of the engineers, Damodar Sachna, was released, bearing two latters containing the demands rebels’ demands.
Acknowledged receiving the letters, Orissa Chief Secretary Bijaya Patnaik said the demands include discontinuation of ‘Operation Green Hunt’ or anti-Naxal operations jointly by the state police and paramilitary forces, immediate release of some indigenous people arrested across Malkangiri for alleged Maoist activities and withdrawal of the security forces from the district.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said the state police was monitoring the situation closely and appealed to the Maoists to release the officer “known for his hard work for the welfare of tribals” of Malkangiri.
State police intelligence sources suspect that Naxals from Andhra Pradesh could be behind the abduction of the 31-year-old Vineel whose precise location has not been ascertained yet.
Malkangiri, one of the prominent Naxal-infested districts in Orissa, borders Andhra Pradesh and Maoists from the southern state often sneak into the tribal dominated district in search of safe shelters. Malkangiri also borders Chhattisgarh.
The suspicion that Andhra Pradesh Maoists were behind the abduction arose because the neither of the two demand letters were Oriya or Hindi. While one of the letters was written in English, the other was in Telugu, possibly by Vineel at gun-point.
“We have every reason to believe that Maoists from Andhra Pradesh were behind the high profile kidnapping,” a senior police official told Deccan Herald.
The audacious abduction by the Maoists, who have expanded across a large corridor stretching over 13 states where they exercise extensive control and have evolved into a potent and lethal insurgency, comes at a time when the Centre and the affected states have deployed thousands of paramilitary troops in their counter-insurgency campaign to hunt down the rebels who have retaliated brutally.
The rebel group had earlier given a 48-hour ultimatum, which will end Friday evening, to the state government for fulfilling its demands.
The incident rocked the state Assembly on Thursday with opposition parties demanding an action taken report from the chief minister who is in-charge of the home department. The Assembly is in the midst its budget session now.
“The incident clearly demonstrates how safe the common people are in the state. However, it is a sensitive matter and we do not want to politicise it. We want the government to take appropriate and timely action for the release of the officers,” said Congress leader Bhupinder Singh.