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Odisha: MLA kidnapped, Maoist negotiators quit

Source: PTI
Last updated on: March 24, 2012 22:56 IST
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Maoists on Saturday abducted a ruling Biju Janata Dal Member of Legislative Assembly when he was returning home from Koraput district, leading to suspension of negotiations with the authorities for the release of two Italian nationals taken hostage by the rebels ten days ago.

In a further setback to efforts to secure the release of the two Italians, two mediators B D Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty appointed by the Maoists opted out, saying the atmosphere is "not conducive" for talks, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik told reporters.

The CM made a fresh appeal to Maoists to free the MLA and the two Italians on humanitarian grounds.

Nearly 50 armed Maoists stopped the vehicle of Laxmipur MLA Jhina Hikaka near Toyaput, where the road had been dug up and a truck blocked the way, Koraput Superintendent of Police Avinash Kumar said.

While the personal security officer and the driver of the MLA were allowed to leave by the ultras, who snatched away their mobile phones, Hikaka was taken away into the nearby forest, he said.

A declaration was made by Maoists through posters that the MLA would be kept hostage until the demands for a halt to anti-Naxal operations by security forces, accepted after the release of the then Malkangiri district collector in February, 2011 were fulfilled.

The chief minister spoke to Home Minister P Chidambaram during the day and briefed him about the situation arising out of the kidnapping of the MLA and the two Italians.

During their telephonic talk, the home minister asked the chief minister whether the state needed any assistance from the Centre to deal with the situation. Patnaik did not seek any help, sources said.

State Chief Secretary B K Patnaik also called up Union Home Secretary R K Singh.

The kidnapping of the MLA led to abrupt suspension of talks between Maoist negotiators and the state government.

Home Secretary U N Behera, one of the mediators on the government side, said that during the last two days unfortunate incidents like the killing of a police sub-inspector and the abduction of the MLA had taken place.

"Under the circumstances, the mediators suggested suspension of talks," he said.

Speaking in the same vein, Maoist-nominated negotiators -- social activist B D Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty -- said, "We feel this is a mockery of peaceful talks and negotiation."

They appealed to the ultras to release the three hostages.

While peace talks were in progress, police sub-inspector K C Rath was killed at Khairput in Malkangiri district on March 22, they said.

Sharma and Mohanty said that after the abduction of the Italians, the Odisha State committee of Maoists had declared a ceasefire and the state government announced that there would be no coercive action by security forces as long as there was no violence by Maoists.

"But the fact remains that when we are discussing Bhubaneswar, unfortunate incidents of disruption of peace is taking place in many parts of the state," they said.

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