The Orissa government today chose Hyderabad based human rights activist Hargopal and Sambalpur University’s retired professor S Someswar Rao to mediate the dialogue with the Maoists for the release of Malkangiri district collector R Vineel Krishna and junior engineer Pradip Majhi.
The names of Hargopal, Someswar Rao and Rajanaitika Bandi Mukti Committee (political prisoners’ freedom committee) convenor Dandapani Mohanty as mediators were suggested by CPI (Maoist)’s Andhra Orissa Border State Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) secretary Bhaskar in a letter to local newspaper offices on Thursday night.
Orissa chief secretary Bijay Patnaik told media persons on Friday: “We have held a discussion with Hargopal and asked them to mediate.”
While the process to secure the release of Krishna and Majhi is on, chief minister on Friday appealed to the Maoists to extend the 48-hour deadline set by them.
“The deadline be extended and no harm be caused to the collector and the junior engineer,” Patnaik appealed to the Maoists through the media.
The state government has started a process of securing the release of the duo following the halting of the anti-Maoist operations on Thursday. While it has engaged some social activists at local level, it has also sought Swami Agnivesh’s help in securing the collector’s release.
Bhaskar, in his letter has claimed that Krishna was abducted as he played an important role in the “operation green hunt”. The letter asked for the release of several top Maoist leaders including AOBSZC leader Sudhakar, senior Maoist leaders A Hargopal, Ganti Prasadam and top Maoist leader Ramkrishna’s wife Padma in exchange of Krishna.
It has also demanded the release of many leaders, including CPI (ML) leader and Koraput’s Chasi Mulia Adibasi Sangha’s advisor Gananath Patra, who have been “implicated in false cases”.
In a daring operation, about 50 Maoists abducted Krishna, Majhi and another junior engineer Damodar Suchetwhen they had gone to inspect some development work after attending a mass contact programme at Badapada gram panchayat, more 700 km southwest of Bhubaneswar. They later released Suchet with a letter which they forced Krishna to write.
In the letter, the ultras have set three pre-conditions for his release – withdrawal of the Andhra-Orissa joint anti-Maoist operation, removal of all BSF camp in sourthern Orissa and release of all people jailed for their alleged involvement with Maoists. They have given a 48-hour ultimatum for fulfillment of their demands. This is the first time that a government official of the rank of collector has been abducted by the Maoists in Orissa.