A district collector and a junior engineer abducted by Maoists five days ago are safe and expected to be released soon, the Orissa government said Monday even as it agreed to eight of the 14 demands put forward by the rebels. State Home Secretary U.N. Behera told reporters after conclusion of the second day of talks between the state government and the three mediators chosen by the guerrillas that the negotiations would resume Tuesday.
"We have so far come to an agreement on eight issues out of the 14, based on specific government decision and measures," Behera said. "We are confident that the collector and the junior engineer will be released soon," he said, adding that both the hostages were safe.
Malkangiri collector R. Vineel Krishna, and junior engineer Pabitra Mohan Majhi were abducted by the Maoists Feb 16. The issues mutually agreed upon include those on human rights violations and displacement by various development projects, he said. Behera and Panchayati Raj Secretary S.N. Tripathy held the second round of
talks for hours with the negotiators - Dandapani Mohanty and academicians G. Haragopal and R. Someswar Rao - in the state guest house here.
The talks which began Sunday and went on for several hours remained inconclusive.
As the government stepped up efforts for the release of Vineel Krishna, people from various walks of life staged protests and held rallies and prayer meetings to exert pressure on the Maoists to free the two. On the other hand, normal life was affected in Maoist hit districts of Koraput, Rayagada, Malkangiri, Gajapati and Kandhamal due to a 24-hour bandh called by the rebels to protest against the government for delaying a
decision on their demands.
Dandapani Mohanty, a mediator said he hoped the government will take steps for the release of 629 "innocent" people languishing in various jails as they had not committed any crimes and were booked on false charges. G. Haragopal said the talks with Maoists may linger because Ganti Prasadam, a Maoist ideologue, has not been released yet. "It (the talks) may continue for some more time," he said. Haragopal told a local television channel that "once Ganti Prasad is made available to us for consultation, the dialogue process will be faster".
"There should be absolutely no danger or no harm to Krishna and other officer. We will definitely ensure that. We are mediators. We have come here partly to participate with a single mission that there is no loss of life,"
The Maoists, in a letter to the government, listed their demands for the safe release of the hostages.
These included halting of anti-Maoist operations by security forces, release of all political prisoners, the scrapping of accords with MNCs and compensation for the families of Maoist sympathisers killed in police
According to sources, state police secured a prison transfer warrant from a court and have already brought Ganti Prasadam from a jail in Andhra Pradesh Saturday night.
His lawyer Monday moved a bail petition in the high court in Cuttack, 26 km from here.
The government lawyer may not oppose this bail petition to facilitate the negotiation process. The court is likely to take up the petition for hearing Wednesday, a senior state police official said.
After that it depends on the court as it is the prerogative of the judge to decide if he wants to grant bail or not, an expert said. Alongwith Prasadam, four other Maoists also Monday moved their bail petitions in the high court.