Maoist-backed mediators negotiating for the release of Italian citizen Basusco Paolo, 55, have threatened to withdraw from talks unless the government meets three of the Maoists’ 13 demands. The acceptance has to come by Friday evening.
The demands include the release of people re-arrested on fresh cases; release of people arrested in fabricated cases; prosecuting police officers responsible for custodial deaths as per a court order.
“Two days ago, we gave everything in writing to the CM,” said Dandapani Mohanty, one of the mediators.
Maoists, who abducted BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka, 37, however, have so far refused to talk. They stick to their stand of seeing media announcement of government acceptance to their demands.
Though BJD leaders claim to be in the dark about it, the state is apparently exploring the possibility of back channel negotiations.
District level leaders in Koraput are asking local workers to get in touch with Maoist sympathisers.
“The BJD, like other political parties, has contacts with junior-level Maoist operatives in southern districts of Koraput, Malkangiri and Rayagada,” a party source said. Senior state officials say there are several reasons why the strategy to free Hikaka is different from that of the Italians.
The key reason, according to the police, is that the Italian hostage mastermind, Sabyasachi Panda, secretary of the Odisha State Organising Committee, is not as ruthless as the leaders of the Andhra Odisha Border State Zonal Committee that abducted Hikaka. The state is counting on the fact that the Maoists will harm the Italians, since they had sympathisers among the strong Christian community in Kandhamal.
Panda does not have the numerical strength to carry out the hostage drama for long.