Maoists kidnap collector, back channel efforts on for release

Malkangiri (Orissa), Feb 17 (PTI) Demanding a halt toanti-Naxal operations and freeing of jailed compatriots,Maoists kidnapped Malkangiri district collector R V Krishnaeven as authorities today launched "back channel" efforts forrelease of the 30-year-old IAS officer.

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram spoke to OrissaChief Minister Naveen Patnaik on phone and asked him to makeall efforts for safe return of the 2005 batch IAS officer whowas abducted last evening by a group of 50 Maoists, officialssaid. The Naxalites have set a two-day deadline for meetingtheir demands.

Officials in Bhubaneswar said that the stategovernment has contacted Naxal sympathiser and balladeerVaravara Rao and social activist Swami Agnivesh for help toget the collector freed.

The incident took place when Krishna was on a visit tothe remote Chitrakonda area, a Maoist stronghold about 85 kmfrom here, to attend a camp for local development, policesaid. It is perhaps the first-ever abduction of an IAS officerin Orissa by the Naxalites.

The Orissa Chief Minister reviewed the situation withstate Chief Secretary B K Patnaik, Home Secretary U N Beheraand other top officials and said that the government wasevaluating all options and monitoring the case.

"I appeal for early release of the young and energeticofficer, who is known for his hard work among the poor and thetribals," the Chief Minister told reporters.

In Delhi, Home Secretary G K Pillai said, "I think itwill take some time (for the release) because the area isquite cut-off but back channel efforts are underway... weare quite confident of getting him back."

He said, "In the limited area if the operation is tobe stopped or not, the state government is fully competent totake a view. It has been done in Chhattisgarh a few days agowhere for 48 hours the operation was suspended to enable therelease of abducted policemen."

Krishna was taken hostage after he went from a publicinteraction camp held at Badapada bordering Andhra Pradesh toinspect a culvert on a road nearby on a motorcycle along withtwo junior engineers and another person, Chitrakonda TehsildarD Gopal Krishnan said.

While the collector and a junior engineer were heldhostage, two others reached Badapada late last night with aletter and handed it over to senior officials, he said.

Strongly condemning the abduction, Pillai said, "Idon''t think there is need for any operation for his release. Iam sure that the local support that he has and the stategovernment will be able to negotiate and get his release.

"What the Maoists are doing is anti-national. That(operation) will remain. There is no question of stopping theoperations (in other areas)," he said. More PTI Corr SKN ALMSC

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