Orissa govt hopeful of early breakthrough in hostage crisis

Posted By: Pti
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Bhubaneswar, Feb 21 (PTI) After two days of talks withNaxal-chosen mediators, Orissa government today said it washopeful of an early breakthrough in securing the release ofabducted Malkangiri district collector and a junior engineer.

In a related development, five hardcore Maoists,including Ganti Prasadam who has about 100 cases against himin Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, moved the Orissa High Court forbail after a similar plea was rejected by a lower court.

The Naxals, who have sought their release as one ofthe conditions for the safe return of the two officials,called for a bandh to press their demand but it evoked littleresponse.

As the negotiations with Maoist handpicked mediatorsfor release of 30-year-old Malkangiri collector R V Krishnaand junior engineer Pabitra Majhi stretched for another day,Home Secretary U N Behera said something concrete was likelyto emerge soon.

The talks with the mediators -- Prof G Hargopal andProf Someswar Rao -- have "progressed well," he said, addingthe interlocutors raised several issues which were under theconsideration of the state government.

"We are very hopeful that it will be sorted out,"Behera said.

As Krishna, a 2005 batch IAS officer, and Majhi spentthe sixth day in captivity, the mediators were keen thatcertain jailed ultras like Ganti Prasadam join thenegotiation process to resolve the hostage crisis.

The issue of release of jailed Maoists was discussedat length, sources said, adding it was possible that bail pleaof the rebels would not be opposed by the government.

Conceding one of the seven demands of the Maoists,Orissa government has already made it clear that there will beno combing operation against them till the conclusion oftalks.

Ganti Prasadam, who was arrested by Orissa Police andlodged in jail on sedition charges, told his lawyer NiharRanjan Patnaik that he was interested in joining talks withgovernment for the release of the abducted officials.

Hargopal said releasing leaders like Ganti Prasadamcould play a significant role in negotiations with Maoists forthe release of the hostages abducted from Chitrakonda area inMalkangiri district on February 16.

Meanwhile, the National Human Rights Commissionappealed to the Naxalites to release the IAS officer and thejunior engineer.

Expressing "deep concern" over their abduction, theNHRC also hoped that human rights defenders in the countrywill try to secure their release immediately.

Though whereabouts of the hostages were not known,the mediators have assured the Orissa government that the twowould not be harmed and that rebels would refrain fromviolence as long as negotiations are underway.

The sources said the abducted officials were insome remote village in Chitrakonda area bordering AndhraPradesh and the Maoists were frequently shifting the duo fromone place to another. .

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