Maoists call for bandh in Orissa as talks enter second day

Bhubaneswar, Feb 21: As talks between Maoist chosen mediators and the government to secure the release of abducted Malkangiri district Collector R V Krishna and an engineer resumed this morning, the red rebels called a state-wide bandh today to press for release of jailed ultras.

The talks had remained inconclusive yesterday, with the mediators saying more time was needed to reach a consensus on the demands of the Maoists.

Both sides renewed the dialogue this morning. Prof G Hargopal, Prof Someswar Rao and Dandapani Mohanty represented the Maoists while home secretary U N Behera and Panchayati Raj secretary S N Tripathy were there on behalf of the Orissa government.

Meanwhile, official sources said the bandh evoked lukewarm response in most places of the state with vehicular movement in districts like Koraput, Raigada and Navrangpur affected partially.

In Malkangiri, a bandh-like situation already exists as educational institutions and various offices remain closed to express solidarity with the abducted collector, though nobody had called any strike.

Five days after the abduction of the collector and junior engineer Pabitra Majhi by Maoists, talks for their safe return were moving at a snail's pace as the rebels pressed for release of some rebels and about 700 tribal ultras from jails, official sources said.

The ultras are also demanding complete halt to joint anti-naxal combing operations in entire Orissa-AP border region by security forces of the two states.

Hargopal earlier said that releasing naxal leaders like Ganti Prasadam could play a significant role in the negotiation with the Maoists for the release of 30-year-old Krishna, a 2005 batch IAS officer, and Majhi, abducted from Chitrakonda area in Malkangiri district on February 16.

Incidentally, Prasadam was brought to Koraput from a jail in Andhra Pradesh yesterday and produced before a court there which rejected his bail plea and sent him to jail. But he is likely to move a higher court soon for bail.

While Orissa government has made it clear that there will be no combing operation against Naxals till conclusion of negotiations, the issue of release of the jailed Maoists was discussed at length, sources said.

Though whereabouts of the hostage duo was not known, the mediators have assured Orissa government the two would not be harmed and that rebels would refrain from violence as long as negotiations are underway.

However, sources said the abducted officials were in some remote village of Chitrakonda area bordering Andhra Pradesh and the Maoists were frequently shifting the duo from one place to another.


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