After two days of talks with Naxal-chosen mediators, Orissa government on Monday said it was hopeful of an early breakthrough in securing the release of abducted Malkangiri district collector and a junior engineer.
In a related development, five hardcore Maoists, including Ganti Prasadam who has about 100 cases against him in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, moved the Orissa high court for bail after a similar plea was rejected by a lower court.
The Naxals, who have sought their release as one of the conditions for the safe return of the two officials, called for a bandh to press their demand but it evoked little response.
As the negotiations with Maoist handpicked mediators for release of 30-year-old Malkangiri collector R V Krishna and junior engineer Pabitra Majhi stretched for another day, home secretary U N Behera said something concrete was likely to emerge soon.
The talks with the mediators -- Prof G Hargopal and Prof Someswar Rao -- have "progressed well," he said, adding the interlocutors raised several issues which were under the consideration of the state government.
"We are very hopeful that it will be sorted out," Behera said.
As Krishna, a 2005 batch IAS officer, and Majhi spent the sixth day in captivity, the mediators were keen that certain jailed ultras like Ganti Prasadam join the negotiation process to resolve the hostage crisis.
The issue of release of jailed Maoists was discussed at length, sources said, adding it was possible that bail plea of the rebels would not be opposed by the government.
Conceding one of the seven demands of the Maoists, Orissa government has already made it clear that there will be no combing operation against them till the conclusion of talks.
Ganti Prasadam, who was arrested by Orissa Police and lodged in jail on sedition charges, told his lawyer Nihar Ranjan Patnaik that he was interested in joining talks with government for the release of the abducted officials.
Hargopal said releasing leaders like Ganti Prasadam could play a significant role in negotiations with Maoists for the release of the hostages abducted from Chitrakonda area in Malkangiri district on February 16.
Meanwhile, the National Human Rights Commission appealed to the Naxalites to release the IAS officer and the junior engineer.
Expressing "deep concern" over their abduction, the NHRC also hoped that human rights defenders in the country will try to secure their release immediately.
Though whereabouts of the hostages were not known, the mediators have assured the Orissa government that the two would not be harmed and that rebels would refrain from violence as long as negotiations are underway.
The sources said the abducted officials were in some remote village in Chitrakonda area bordering Andhra Pradesh and the Maoists were frequently shifting the duo from one place to another.