Bhubaneswar, April 8: On a day of fast paced developments, the Maoists holding Biju Janata Dal MLA, Jhina Hikaka, hostage released a letter which raised hopes of his release while the rebel group, which has Italian tour operator Paolo Bosusco in its captivity, sought clarifications from the government on its demands.
The letter from the Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) of CPI(Maoist) asked the abducted MLA’s wife to reach Balipeta village near Narayanpatna in Koraput district on April 10 alongwith the prisoners whose release they have sought.
The letter written in Telugu said that MLA’s wife Kaushalya should come accompanied by the two mediators, B.D. Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty, and a lawyer, Nihar Patnaik. The Maoists, who have set April 10 deadline for the government to meet their demands, promised to handover the abducted MLA to these four persons provided they did not bring along any police or intelligence officials.
On the other hand, the Maoists holding the Italian tour operator, captive in the forests of Kandhamal today sought a clarification from the state government as to how many rebels it actually intended to set free and how many of their 13 demands would be met.
Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda sought a categorical reply from the state government in this regard though an audio message sent to some media houses here. The development reflected the communication gap between the rebels, who kidnapped the 58-year-old Italian on March 14, and the two mediators they had nominated to hold talks with the government. The talks concluded yesterday.
In his latest audio message, Panda, the state organising secretary of CPI (Maoist), claimed that though he had sought the release of seven persons in exchange of the Italian the government had announced a list of six persons of whom it was willing to release only five.
The rebel leader said it was even more disappointing to find that the government list contained only three of the seven names suggested by him for release.
“This has created suspicion and the government should make clear how many prisoners are going to be released along with their names,” said Panda. He also demanded that the government make its stand clear on the other demands made by his group including lifting of the ban imposed on 'mass organisations’ along with the CPI (Maoist) in 2006.
The seven persons whose release Panda had sought were his wife, Subhashree Das alias Milli Panda, Arati Majhi, Suka Nachika, Gannath Patra, Kamalakant Sethi, Sujata and Sudarshan Mandal.
However, chief minister Naveen Patnaik stated in the Assembly on April 7 that the two mediators had told the government that the Maoists wanted the release of six persons including Bijay Tadingi, Chakra Tadingi, Shuka Nachika, Subhashree Das, Manmohan Pradhan and Arati Majhi of whom only five could be set free but he did not name the person who was being excluded.
In an earlier statement on April 5, the chief minister had said that the government would facilitate the release of Subhashree Das, Arati Majhi, Suka Nachika and Chakra Tadingi to secure the release of the Italian tour operator. Panda had retorted saying that Chakra was a stranger to him.
The apparent confusion caused by these statements appears to have irked Panda who now wants a clear-cut reply from the government. The chief minister, who reviewed the situation on the hostage front at a high level meeting here today, said, “There seems to be some confusion. The government negotiators and Maoist-appointed mediators had come to a clear conclusion yesterday. I do hope all these will be cleared by them soon.”
Naveen said Italian Ambassador Giacomo Sanfelice di Monteforte had again called him today and expressed concern about Bosusco.
Referring to the demand of other Maoist group holding Biju Janata Dal MLA, Jhina Hikaka to free five more of their people, he said that the legal issues involved were being examined by the government.