The Maoists released Italian national Paolo Bosusco, who was abducted from the Kandhamal region, after 29 days in captivity on Thursday.
Bosusco, handed over to interlocutor Dandapani Mohanty at 5am and whisked off to Bhubaneswar, later told the media at a state guesthouse: “I am fine. I was treated well.” Thanking the people of Orissa, he said it was time to go home.
Earlier on Wednesday night, two days after a court acquitted Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda’s wife Subhashree, negotiator Mohanty went to the Kandhamal forests, 250 km from Bhubaneswar, to meet Panda. He reached around 10pm and spoke to Panda for almost four hours.
Mohanty told HT that his arguments “convinced Panda”, as he pointed out that civil society had appealed for the foreigner’s release and the chief minister made a commitment in the assembly, sending out a loud and clear message protesting “the treatment of tribals as commodities”.
Chief minister Naveen Patnaik said, “The government is relieved after Paolo’s release.” He also appealed to the Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) to release abducted MLA Jhina Hikaka as well.
Although that prospect does not look too close, Bosusco’s release has been only a matter of time, as the Maoists released his compatriot Claudio Colangelo about two weeks ago.
The Panda-led Odisha State Organising Committee (OSOC) that was behind the abduction of the two Italians on March 14 did not have the strength or resources to keep them hostage for long.
The government knew about this weakness, said sources, which was why it did not take Panda's demands too seriously. It reflected in the way the chief minister rejected a proposed mediator and gave more weight to the wish list of the AOBSZC that abducted Hikaka.
Panda was unhappy with the government’s decision to release five prisoners for OSOC against AOBSZC's 22, but he wanted to release Paolo.
On April 7, the negotiators reached an agreement. Bosusco’s freedom, however, was delayed by another four days as Panda claimed he did not receive a copy of the agreement. On April 10, Panda's wife Subhashree was acquitted by the court, further facilitating Bosusco's release.