Maoists on Wednesday made a conditional offer to release one of the two Italians in their custody, even as union home minister P Chidambaram rejected Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s complaint that the Centre did not offer any help in dealing with the kidnapping.
“One of the Italians can be set free if the state government accepts two of our demands even before start of negotiations,” a Maoist leader told a TV channel, as Basusco Paolo, 55, and Claudio Colangelo, 60, spent their eighth day in captivity.
The rebel leader demanded the immediate release of five persons including Subhashree Das, wife of top Maoist Sabyasachi Panda, and action against police officials allegedly involved in fake encounters and rape.
Odisha on its part directed three IAS officers it has chosen for negotiations with Maoists to contact former bureaucrat and social activist BD Sharma, whom the rebels have named.
In Delhi, Chidambaram — reacting to Patnaik’s complaint — told reporters, “I don’t think the chief minister should be making these statements without any basis.” He added that Patnaik — who had said on Tuesday that the external affairs and home ministries were not “displaying urgency in the hostage crisis issue” — had not sought any assistance so far.
“The CM spoke to me on Sunday, I offered him every help. He did not ask me for anything. He said I am just keeping you informed.” Chidambaram said. Responding, Patnaik said in Bhubaneswar, “I am really not here to banter words with Mr Chidambaram. The hostage crisis is a very, very serious matter not only for Odisha but for the entire country.”
The Italians were kidnapped while trekking in Kandhamal district on March 14.
Patnaik, meanwhile, urged the Maoists to name another negotiator in place of Prafulla Samantra, who is unwilling to take up the role.
The CM has already cleared the name of Dandapani Mohanty as a negotiator. Mohanty had mediated for the release of former Malkangiri collector, R Vineel Krishna, from Maoist custody in February 2011.
With inputs from agencies