Mediators, Orissa govt officials in talks

Bhubaneswar, February 20 (PTI): The much-awaited talks between the Orissa government and mediators chosen by Maoists began here on Sunday for the release of abducted Malkangiri District Collector RV Krishna and an engineer. The crucial meeting began amid tight security soon after the arrival here of the two Hyderabad-based interlocutors, Prof Hargopal and Prof Someswar Rao. Orissa Home Secretary U N Behera and Panchayati Raj Secretary SN Tripathy represented the government in the talks for the release of Krishna and junior engineer Pabitra Mohan Majhi.
Krishna and Majhi were abducted by Maoists during a visit to remote Chitrakond area in Maoist stronghold of Malkangiri district on Wednesday evening. Rao said the mediators were going for the talks with a positive approach and “we will certainly like to resolve the hostage crisis”. “We have brought some proposals from Maoist leaders which will be placed before Orissa government during our talks,” the mediators told reporters while proceeding for the negotiations after their arrival at Biju Patnaik airport here. There was no pressure from the Maoists, they said adding, “First we have to know what the state government has to say on the issue before holding detailed talks,” they said.
While preliminary talks were held with the mediators over phone, preparatory work was done by senior state officials for crucial negotiations to secure safe release of 30-year-old Krishna, a 2005 batch IAS officer, and Majhi who were abducted from Chitrakonda area of Malkangiri district on Wednesday evening. Besides halt to anti-Naxal joint combing operations, which has already been conceded, the seven-point demands of the Naxals included withdrawal of BSF, release of 700 jailed tribal Naxals and scrapping of Polavaram multi-purpose dam project in Andhra Pradesh.
Though Maoists have sought release of some 700 jailed tribal ultras, their emphasis appeared to be on setting free a couple of “key persons”, including Padma, wife of a top Maoist leader, Gantiprasad, who faces about 100 cases in Orissa and Andhra Pradesh, S Srinivasulu, former chief of pro-Maoist Revolutionary Writers Association in Andhra Pradesh and senior member of CPI (Maoist). Orissa government yesterday examined the charges against certain key Naxals whose release is expected to facilitate the safe return of the two abducted officials. The abduction of the two officials has drawn widespread condemnation with people from all walks of life staging peace rallies in different parts of the state seeking their safe release.