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Odisha hostage crisis: Deadline ends on Tuesday

April 10, 2012 21:34 IST
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With the deadline set by two Maoist groups holding an Italian and a MLA hostage ending on Tuesday, one of the groups claimed that the Odisha government was unclear in meeting its demands.

In a fresh audio message to a section of the media, Odisha State Organising Committee of CPI (Maoist) secretary Sabyasachi Panda accused the state government of resorting to delay in meeting the demands for release of Italian Paolo Bosusco, held hostage by his group.

Noting that his group had placed 13 demands including release of seven persons from jails, he said the state government's response was not clear.

Panda also claimed that he was yet to receive a copy of the joint statement signed by government representatives and ultra mediators on April 7 on fulfillment of demands.

Steps have been taken to send copies of the joint statement to forests in Kandhamal district where Panda was believed to be present, sources said.

Home Secretary U N Behera said, "It is hoped that the joint statement issued by government representatives and mediators nominated by Maoists has reached Sabyasachi Panda."

The Maoist leader was, however, silent on the release of Bosusco or any new deadline.

His wife, Subhashree Das alias Mili Panda, whose release was sought was acquitted during the day by a court due to lack of evidence.

There was no word from the other group, Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee holding Biju Janata Dal MLA Jhina Hikaka which has demanded immediate release of 30 people and their physical presence for a swap. The deadline for meeting its demands ends on Tuesday.

Making a fresh appeal to both groups to free Hikaka and Bosusco immediately and unharmed, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said "certain legal process has to be followed for 27 detenus whose names were announced five days ago".

The state government has asked both Maoist groups to move bail for release of those in jail instead of seeking their release.

The hostage crisis was compounded by the threat of police to boycott anti-Maoist operations if hardcore ultras like Chenda Bhusanam alias Ghasi, accused in killing of at least 55 policemen, were freed by the government for the hostages.

The home secretary said, "The state government has agreed to facilitate release of 27 detenus of Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha and CPI (Maoist). Their names have been announced and judicial process involved in the matter has been clarified."

On the demand by Maoists that the MLA's wife should go to Balipeta village in Koraput district with released CMAS and Maoists, Behera said, "It is advised that steps be taken on behalf of the 23 detainees to file their bail petitions."

On warning by Odisha Police Association and Havildar and Constable Mahasangh to boycott anti-Naxal operations if hardcore Maoists were released, he said the chief minister has already made it clear that whatever action would be taken would be within the framework of law.

The home secretary said bail petitions in respect of those who sought to be released from jail for the Italian's freedom should also be moved.

Asserting that the government has given commitment on release of prisoners for freedom of both the MLA and the Italian, he said, "We hope the captors will release the two hostages immediately, unharmed and in good health."

On the abductors of Bosusco asking the government to clarify how many ultras it would free, Behera said the state government had asked Maoist-named mediators B D Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty to send a copy of the joint statement to Panda so that any confusion could be cleared.

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