The prospects of an early release of the two Italian nationals abducted by Maoists in Odisha's Kandhamal district brightened after the extremists named three persons on Monday evening to act as interlocutors.
The interlocutors were Narayan Sanyal, a senior Maoist leader now lodged in a Jharkhand jail; social activist and Jan Adhikar Manch convener Dandapani Mohanty; and lawyer Biswapriya Mohanty. (Mr. Dandapani Mohanty had acted as one of the three interlocutors to facilitate the release of the then Malkangiri Collector, R. Vineel Krishna, from the Maoists in February last year.)
According to sources, the Maoists also said that they would not indulge in any violence until after the talks were over.
The Maoists had sent their demands to the State government earlier in the day. Giving this information in the Assembly, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said the extremists had not nominated their representatives for talks, and further steps would be taken only when the government received such a communication.
Reiterating in the House his appeal to the Maoists to release the two Italians, Mr. Patnaik said his government had received a Maoist pamphlet containing 13 demands. These included calling a halt to Operation Green Hunt in the State, withdrawal of the security forces from the interior districts, and lifting of the ban on the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and other people's organisations.
Mr. Patnaik told the House that the Italian nationals, Paolo Bosusco and Claudio Colangelo, were kidnapped when they were visiting Daringbadi tehsil of the tribal-dominated Kandhamal district. Mr. Bosusco, who had been staying for the past 19 years in Puri, was running a travel agency named Odisha Adventurous Trekking, which organised trips for tourists to different parts of the State. The other person was a tourist from Italy, he said.
In Kandhamal, deserted ghat roads welcomed media teams that had arrived in the region to cover the crisis. There was no trace of security personnel in the region since Sunday evening. Hundreds of paramilitary personnel were found resting in their temporary camps. Sources said the government had halted the combing operations in Kandhamal and the adjoining districts, as demanded by the Maoists.