The five-day old Italian hostage crisis deepened on Monday with the Maoists failing to respond to the Odisha's government's offer for negotiations and insisting on acceptance of their 13-point charter of demands including withdrawal of cases against the ultras.
There was no word on the fate of the two Italian nationals, Paolo Boscusco and Claudio Colangelo, who were abducted by the left-wing extremists on March 14 while they were visiting some areas in the tribal-dominated Daringbadi Tahsil of Kandhamal district.
Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi spoke to his Indian counterpart S M Krishna who assured him that the Odisha government was taking all steps to secure their early release.
On his part Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik made a fresh appeal to the Maoists to release the hostages immediately and see that they are unharmed. "A pamphlet in the name of 'Sunil', Secretary of Odisha State Organising Committee of CPI (Maoist), containing 13 their demands has been received and is being examined," Patnaik told the assembly.
Stating the Maoists have not yet nominated their representatives to discuss the matter on their behalf with the government, Patnaik said, "When such a communication is received, further steps will be taken."
In Berhampur, Dandapani Mohanty, one of the three interlocutors who negotiated between Maoists and the Odisha government for release of then Malkanagiri collector R Vinnel Krishna last year, offered to negotiate for release of two abducted Italians if asked by the two sides.
The Italians were taken hostage on March 14 but the Maoists had reported in late on March 17 through the media.
Bosusco has been staying in India for the last 19 years in Puri and was running a travel agency named 'Odisha Adventurous Trekking' which has been organising trips to different parts of the state for tourists, while Colangelo was a tourist from Italy, Patnaik added.
The two Italians had driven down from Puri and entered a forested area inspite of being warned by the Daringibadi police about Maoists. A driver and cook who were accompanying them and their vehicle were released by the Maoists subsequently.
A report from Puri said that the driver, Kartik Parida, and cook, Santosh, were interrogated by police.
Earlier, Home Secretary U N Behera said, "The state government is yet to receive a response from the abductors of the two Italians. The chief minister has made it clear that we are open to any kind of negotiation under the law."
Though the deadline set by the abductors for their 13-point demands including immediate halt to combing operations and release of some leaders and tribals ended last evening, it was presumed to have been extended, a senior official said.
Indicating that the government was adopting a wait and watch approach, he said, "since the government has made an offer of talks, the deadline is understood to have been extended. A response from the kidnappers is awaited."
In the Assembly, the Opposition slammed the Odisha government and wanted to know under what circumstances one of the Italians has been staying in Puri for nearly two decades and running a travel agency.
Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh asked the government to inform the people about the status of passport and visa of the two Italians, particularly Bosusco. The senior Congress leader sought to know whether there were any restrictions for foreign nationals in visiting certain places in Kandhamal district from where the two were abducted. Bharatiya Janata Party leader K V Singhdeo also lashed out at the state government accusing it of failing to implement security guidelines prepared after the kidnap of Malkangiri district collector by R V Krishna by Maoists last year.