Hostage crisis: Maoist leader shifted to Bhubaneswar

Bhubaneswar, Feb 21 (PTI) A day before the most sensitiveissue relating to Maoist demands on release of some of theirleaders in return for freedom for abducted Collector andjunior engineer is taken up at the meeting between Orissagovernment and mediators tomorrow, prominent Naxal leaderGanti Prasadam was being shifted to the state capital.

Prasadam, who had earlier in the day had expressed desireto participate in the negotiation with the state government,would arrive the state capital by tomorrow morning, officialsources said.

"Ganti Prasadam was being shifted from Koraput toBhubaneswar with the prior permission of the localsub-divisional judicial magistrate (SDJM) on security reason",a senior prison official told PTI over phone.

A close aide of top Maoist leader Ramakrishna, GantiPrasadam was being brought to the state capital amidst tightsecurity from Koraput, a senior police official said.

After his arrival here, the three mediators selectedby Maoists - Prof G Hargopal, Prof R S Rao and DandapaniMohanty - could consult him in the jail here at Jharpada.

However, it was unlikely that Prasadam would share thetable with the Home secretary U N Behera and Panchayati Rajsecretary S N Tripathy.

Under no circumstances, Ganti Prasad could be broughtto the state guest house where the negotiation was in progressfor the last two days, a senior official said.

However, there were two options, said a seniorofficial of the Law department. "First, the mediators andothers could meet Ganti Prasadam in the jail and holddiscussion with him there. The second option was that thegovernment had to declare the state guest house as a temporaryjail where Ganti could be brought for discussion," theofficial said.

Participation of Ganti Prasadam in the negotiationsremained one of the major demands of the Maoists who hadabducted Malkangiri collector R V Krishna and junior engineerPabitra Majhi on February 16.

Ealier, Ganti Prasadam''s lawyer Nihar Ranjan Patnaiktold PTI that his client was keen to participate in thediscussion.

Prof G Hargopal, one of the three mediators, hadearlier suggested to the state government that GantiPrasadam''s release from jail would help in ensuring saferelease of the abducted officials.

Prof Hargopal had also yesterday said that he wasexpecting that "some representatives of the Maoist party"would join the talks.

Though Prasadam was more than willing to be part of thenegotiations with the state government, his bail petition wasrejected by the sub-divisional judicial magistrate''s court atKoraput yesterday. Meanwhile, his lawyer had moved the HighCourt seeking bail which was likely to be heard on Wednesday.

After realising that Ganti Prasadam''s release could behelpful to end the hostage crisis, the state government hasdecided not to oppose his bail when it comes up for hearing atthe higher court, sources said.

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