| Paolo Bosusco waves at reporters waiting outside the state guest house
in Bhubaneswar on Thursday. (AFP) |
Bhubaneswar, April 12: Italian tour operator Paolo Bosusco walked out to freedom early this morning after spending almost a month in Maoist captivity.
Bosusco, who was kidnapped by the rebels on March 14 along with another Italian national Claudio Colangelo, emerged from the forests near Raikia in Kandhamal district around 5am, accompanied by Jan Adhikar Manch convenor Dandapani Mohanty, one of the two mediators, who held talks with the state government for his release.
“We trekked through the forests for about three hours to reach a place between Raikia and Mandakia where we boarded a vehicle,” said Mohanty, who had a meeting with CPI (Maoist) state organising committee secretary Sabyasachi Panda in his forest hideout late last night following which the rebel chief handed over Bosusco to him.
Chief minister Naveen Patnaik said: “I have also spoken to the Italian ambassador. I wish the MLA kidnapped by the Maoists is also set free without harm,” said Naveen.
Home secretary U.N. Behera said action would be initiated if Bosusco were found to have indulged in any illegal activity during his stay in Odisha.
The Maoists had abducted Bosusco and Colangelo from near Daringbadi, a hill station in Kandhamal, along with two Odia youths, who used to work for the tour operator.
While the two Odias were released on March 16, the rebels set Colangelo free on March 25 as a “goodwill” gesture, but Bosusco remained in their custody.
While negotiations between the government and the two mediators for Bosusco’s release were on, Italian ambassador Giacomo Sanfelice di Monteforte and Calcutta-based Italian consul general Joel Melchiori reached Bhubaneswar piling pressure on the authorities.
The rebels had put forward a 13-point charter of demands, but their emphasis was on the release of seven top Maoist leaders and sympathisers, including Sabyasachi’s wife, Subhashree Panda. Things moved at a fast pace after Subhashree was released from Gunpur jail on Tuesday.
But, the final steps for Bosusco’s release were a closely guarded secret. Mohanty set out for the forest hideout of Sabyasachi from Berhampur, his hometown, yesterday afternoon and reached Raikia around 8pm.
“Somebody took me into the forests and my meeting with Sabyasachi began around 11pm and continued for over two hours after which Paolo was handed over to me,” said the mediator, who, along with Bosusco, reached Bhubaneswar around 10am today.
As a huge media contingent waited on the lawns of the state guest house here, Bosusco went through the routine media tests and other formalities before speaking to reporters briefly.
Paolo then left the place in a car accompanied by the two Italian diplomats.
Mohanty said though Sabyasachi had released the Italian tour operator, he was still unhappy with the state government’s attitude towards his demand for the unconditional release of the Maoists and their sympathisers such as Arati Majhi. “He is upset that the government has asked her to apply for bail. He wants the government to release leaders like her and Gananath Patra unconditionally after withdrawal of the cases against them,” said Mohanty.