Though the Maoists, who have kept two Italian nationals as hostage for the last six days, announced on Monday night three mediators for holding discussion with the Odisha government for their release, one of them is reluctant to take the job.
After Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Monday urged the Maoists to nominate their mediators for talks with the state government on their behalf for the release of the foreign nationals, the ultras announced the names of Communist Party of India (Maoist) politburo member Narayan Sanyal now lodged in Girdih jail in Jharkhand, Jan Adhikar Manch convenor Dandapani Mohanty, who was one of the three mediators for securing the release of the then Malkangiri collector R Vineel Krishna in February last, and Bhubaneswar based human rights activist and lawyer Biswapriya Kanungo.
The Maoists also announced unilateral ceasefire and extended their deadline for meeting their demands till Tuesday evening.
Making it clear that he was neither a supporter of the Maoists nor the state government, Kanungo said he was not ready to mediate on behalf of just one side – Maoists. "As a human rights activist, I have my own limitations and mediating in such crises becomes quite dicey," Kanungo told Hindustan Times.
However, he said, he might consider if both sides – Maoists as well as the state government – chose him to be a mediator and made it clear from the beginning that they would adhere to the points agreed upon by both parties.
He however added that some of the Maoist demands were genuine and should be taken up by the government seriously.
Explaining his reluctance, Kanungo said when there was a crisis, everybody looked for somebody who could bail them out, but when it was over the points agreed upon were usually forgotten. "We have seen that during the abduction and ensuing negotiations for Krishna’s release," Kanungo said.
After Krishna’s release, he said, the Maoists and the mediators blamed the state government for not honouring commitments made during the negotiation. On the other hand, the state government alleged the Maoists also violated the agreement. "What’s more Mohanty was bitter that he was targeted by the government which allegedly lodged false cases against him," Kanungo said.
Kanungo said he did not appreciate the abduction of foreigners. "They are neither police informers nor their abduction would serve any revolutionary purpose," he said.
On the other hand, talking to Hindustan Times, Mohanty said though the Maoists had announced their names, the state government had yet to respond.
Mohanty said they had to mediate for both the sides. The state government should immediately declare ceasefire and start a process to bring Sanyal after taking to the central government and Jharkhand government. "Sanyal will lead the negotiation process," Mohanty said.
Targeting foreigners for the first time, Maoists abducted Italian nationals, Basusco Paolo (55) and Claudi Colangelo (60), from the forests of Kandhamal district, about 300 km southwest of Bhubaneswar, on March 14 along with two other Indian youth. They freed the youth on Saturday and spread word about the foreigners’ abduction on Sunday through an audiotape to the media.