Italian’s abductors place new demands

The possible release of Maoist-abducted Italian Bosusco Paolo and Laxmipur legislator  Jhina Hikaka got delayed with the rebels on Wednesday placing new demands for freeing the  foreigner while not naming anybody to mediate on the BJD leader.

“The state government has received some additional demands from the mediators appointed by the Maoists with regard to the kidnapping of Paolo, the Italian national. They are now being examined,” chief minister  Naveen Patnaik told the Assembly. “The examination of these demands may take a day or more,” he added, suggesting that the talks between the three government representatives and two CPI (Maoist)-named interlocutors for the Italian’s kidnapping “may be delayed for a brief period”.

Rebels of the Sabysachi Panda-led Odisha State Organizing Committee of the outlawed CPI (Maoist) had abducted Paolo and his countryman Claudio Colangelo from the Kandhamal-Ganjam border on March 14. On March 25, they let go Colangelo (61) with a group of journalists, saying they would free Paolo once the government conceded to their 13-point charter of demands, which includes halt to Operation Green Hunt and release of Panda’s wife Subhashree, Gananath Patra and some others who they call “political prisoners”. Panda had named B D Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty to mediate with the state government.

However, the talks are yet to yield any result, with the duo putting the government in a bind by coming up with new demands like cancellation of all licences of liquor traders in the scheduled areas and implementing a “comprehensive” excise policy adopted by the central government in 1974, wherein it was envisaged to ban commercial vending of intoxicants in tribal areas, allow preparation of traditional brews for personal consumption only, allow sale of intoxicants in non-tribal areas exclusively through government outlets and concede community’s control on all excise matters, according to a memorandum submitted by Sharma and Mohanty to the chief minister. Among other demands, they also pressed for the state government to lift ban on “mass organizations”; withdrawal of cases and freeing of 30 people, including hardcore Maoist Ashutosh Soren; expeditious disposal of cases against tribals of Kandhamal, Gajapati, Rayagada, Keonjhar, Sambalpur, Deogarh and Sambalpur districts jailed in the name of Maoists; action against officers held guilty by high court in the Lalit Dehuri, Pradip Majhi, Junesh Badaraita and Katru Huika custodial death and fake encounter cases.

The release of Hikaka, who was kidnapped by the CPI (Maoist) Andhra-Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) on March 23 night from Koraput, is also proving to be a major headache for the government. Though the government has expressed hope that the radicals would name negotiators and release the MLA, the AOBSZC, a faction opposed to Panda’s OSOC, has thus far rejected the offer for talks and wants the government to bow down to its demands.

Official sources said three leaders of the Maoist-backed Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha – Ingu Disari, Nabina Pujari and Dinu Sirika – have reportedly conveyed their displeasure to the guerillas on the lawmaker’s kidnapping., but the government’s efforts to free him were proving futile due to the obstinate stand adopted by the abductors. “We hope the Maoists will announce the names of their negotiators soon so that discussion for Hikaka’s release can start,” a government officer said.

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