Kandhamal: Maoists in Odisha, who have taken two Italians hostage, have now named three interlocutors to negotiate with the government. This is after the state government had halted combing operations as demanded by the Maoists. The people named include a senior Maoist leader, who's in a jail in Jharkhand, a rights activist and lawyer, and another person who was part of the negotiations for release of Malkangiri collector last year.
Maoists have set a deadline for today evening for the Odisha government to respond to their offer. They have also announced a unilateral ceasefire and have appealed to other Maoists operating along the state's border not to indulge in violence.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had said combing operations will stop if the Maoists shun violence.
"There will be no coercive action taken by the security forces as long as the Odisha state Organising Committee of the CPI-Maoist do not indulge in any violence or unlawful activity. I once again most earnestly urge the Maoists to release the two Italian nationals," Mr Patnaik said.
Maoists have made new demands for the release of the two Italians abducted in Odisha's Kandhamal district. They want three of their leaders, Gana-nath Patra, Subha-shree Panda and Ashutosh Soren released. They also want search and combing operations against them suspended.
The Maoists have released both locals abducted along with the Italians.
Minister for External Affairs SM Krishna on Monday received a call from the Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi di Sant'Agata and updated him on the latest situation relating to the two Italian citizens kidnapped by Maoists in Odisha. Mr Krishna assured his Italian counterpart that the Odisha government is doing all it can to ensure the release of the kidnapped Italians.
The Italian Foreign minister thanked Mr Krishna for the assistance provided by Indian government agencies so far in the case.
There is no word yet on the kidnapped Italians who are being held hostage by the Maoists in Odisha's Kandhamal district.
One of the two abducted men, Boscusco Paolo, has been visiting Odisha since 1999 and runs a travel agency in Puri that takes foreign tourists on tribal tours. The other, Clandio Colangilo, is a tourist. The two were kidnapped from the Kandhmal-Ganjam border.
One of the two locals released by the Maoists has said that the two Italians were actually abducted on March 14. Santosh Maharana, an employee of the Odisha Adventure Trekking, a small travel agency run by Paolo, said the Maoists took them to a forest where they had to spend three days. They were all treated well and given good food.
"They just told us that we are releasing you and will soon release them too," he said.
The Maoists say the duo were taking objectionable pictures of tribal women. Late on Saturday night, the Maoists sent an audio message to NDTV claiming responsibility.
"We have arrested two Italian tourists who like hundreds of foreign tourists ... treat the local people as monkeys and objects of ridicule. This is against humanity and we want the people at large to rise against this," the Maoists said in the audio message.
The state government, which had managed to get the Malkangiri Collector Vineel Krishna released after nine days of high drama last year in February, called for a crisis meeting. "The state government has expressed willingness to hold talks with Maoists who have, however, not named any mediators nor spelt out their demands," said UN Behera, Home Secretary, Odisha.
The Maoists want the state government to act on the 13-point charter of demands, which include the long-standing demands like the release of political prisoners and the halt to Operation Greenhunt.
Condemning the incident, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik yesterday said, "The state government is ready to hold dialogue with Maoists within the ambit of law." He also made an appeal for their release.
Even though this incident does not impinge on the diplomatic relationship, the incident is being played in a big way by the Italian media.