Maoists serve ultimatum to Odisha Govt

Dialogues between the Government representatives and the two Maoist-nominated negotiators on the release of Italian tour operator Paolo Bosusco appeared headed for a breakdown with one of the negotiators, Dandapani Mohanty, asking the Government to accept the three main demands put forth by the State Organising Committee of the CPI(Maoist) led by Sabyasachi Panda and restart the dialogue latest by Friday afternoon failing which the insurgents would walk out of the parleys “without wasting any more time in AC rooms at cost of public money”.

“The Government should fulfill three of the 13 major demands made by the Maoists to facilitate the release of Italian national Paolo Bosusco held hostage since March 14,” said Mohanty, while talking to the media on Thursday.

Anguished at the way the three bureaucrats negotiating on behalf of the Government are conducting themselves, Mohanty alleged that they are misleading the Chief Minister only to create confusion and not allow the issue to close.

Although Mohanty and BD Sharma have confined the talks to the issue of release of the Italian national, the three demands also cover the main demands made by the abductors of Laxmipur MLA Jhina Hikaka and could serve the Government both ways.

The first demand pertains to action against police officials responsible for fake encounters and custodial deaths as directed by the High Court. The Maoists claimed that Lalit Dehuri, Pradip Majhi, Junesh Badraita and Katru Huika were victims of police excesses.

Under the second demand, the Maoists alleged that several persons were still incarcerated in jails on basis of false cases slapped by the police even after they were freed by the court. The Government should immediately release 14 such persons including Subhashree Dash alias Mili Panda, wife of Sabyasachi Panda (secretary of the State Organising Committee, who is also the mastermind behind the abduction of Paolo Bosusco). The Government should also expedite legal processes for the release of over 400 tribals lodged in several jails in Kandhamal, Gajapati, Keonjhar, Sambalpur, Deogarh and Sundergarh districts on charges of involvement in Maoist activities.

The third demand relates to the release of 16 persons including Arati Majhi, Susil Sai and Ashutosh Soren who have been booked under false charges. The Maoist-nominated mediators have furnished the list of 16 persons to the three Government representatives.

Dandapani Mohanty categorically stated that dialogues could be held later on the other ten demands put forth by the Maoists.

He reiterated that the Maoists have not put forth any new demand and accused the three Government representatives of misleading the Chief Minister to create confusion. He had also alleged on Wednesday after a brief meeting that their note to the Chief Minister on the 13 demands were misinterpreted by the Chief Minister as new demands in a statement given in the State Assembly, thereby misleading the House. He had even suggested that if the Government was not in a position to concede the demands, it should place the same on the table of the House “whose decision would be binding” for both sides.

In fact, the negotiations which appeared promising in the initial stages, have reached a stalemate, with the Government dragging its feet over decisions and parroting that “the demands are being studied” for the last few days.

There had been forecasts in certain media circles just on the eve of announcement of the names of negotiators by the Government casting doubts on the outcome of the talks and suggesting that the politicians could solve the hostage problem better than bureaucrats who are heavily biased against issues related to tribals and activists working for them.

The Government seems to have learnt little from its failure in implementing the agreement reached during negotiations for release of then Malkangiri Collector R Vineel Krishna which has declaredly prompted the present crisis.

Meanwhile, the crisis over Laxmipur MLA Jhina Hikaka who was taken hostage by the Koraput-Srikakulam Divisional Committee of the Andhra-Odisha-Border Special Zonal Committee on March 24 is lingering with the Chief Minister “studying the demands” while nobody knows as yet exactly where the MLA is and in what condition.

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