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Hostage crisis: Orissa resumes talks with mediators

Bhubaneswar: Stepping up efforts for the release of a district collector and an engineer kidnapped by Maoists on Feb 16, the Orissa government on Monday resumed talks with the three mediators chosen by the guerrillas.

State Home Secretary UN Behera and Panchayati Raj Secretary SN Tripathy began the second round of talks with the negotiators Dandapani Mohanty and academicians G Haragopal and R Someswar Rao in the state guest house here, a senior state official told a news agency.

The talks which began on Sunday and went on for several hours remained inconclusive.

The district collector of Malkangiri, R Vineel Krishna, and junior engineer Pabitra Mohan Majhi, were abducted by Maoists Feb 16 evening.

The release may take some more time as a key rebel ideologue is still behind bars, a mediator said on Monday hours before the start of the second round discussion.

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”.

According to sources, state police secured a prison transfer warrant from a court and have already brought Prasadam from a jail in Andhra Pradesh Saturday night.

His lawyer might move a bail petition on Monday in a court in Koraput, a senior state police officer said on condition of anonymity.

The government lawyer may not oppose this bail petition to facilitate the negotiation process, he 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.

Talking about the negotiation they had with senior state officials on Sunday, Haragopal said the discussion were held in a congenial and friendly atmosphere.

“Yesterday, all the demands have been discussed by both the mediators and the representative of the government. The government has favourably responded to most of the demands,” he said.

He also said the mediators will take up various other issues in the next round of discussion on Monday.

These issues include human rights violations, displacements by various development projects and tribals languishing in different jails on minor charges or sometimes even without any charge, he said.

“Today, we will take up what actions government proposes to take on some of those issues.

“We hope that government will come out with some course of action. By evening, we should be very clear what the government is willing to do and how they would like to go ahead,” he said.

About the status of the hostages, he said: “We have come here to ensure that nothing happens to (the District Collector) Krishna and junior engineer Majhi. We will work only in that direction.

“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,” he said.

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 custody.

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