State government ready to negotiate BJD MLA's release: Patnaik

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Tuesday appealed to the Maoists to come forward to hold talks with his government through their negotiators for the release of Biju Janata Dal legislator, Jhina Hikaka, who was kidnapped from Koraput district on March 24.

Mr. Patnaik's appeal came a day after the Maoists said that they were not in favour of talks and would release the legislator only after the government fulfilled their demands.

Mr. Patnaik said the three senior State government officials, who were already holding talks with two interlocutors for the release of Italian national Bosusco Paolo, were ready for negotiating Mr. Hikaka's release as well.

The Chief Minister expressed the hope that the Maoists would announce the names of their negotiators quickly so that the discussions could start immediately.

While Mr. Paolo was kidnapped from Kandhamal district by the Odisha State Committee of the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist), Mr. Hikaka was kidnapped by cadres of the Srikakulam-Koraput division that works under the Andhra-Odisha Border Committee of the party.

Meanwhile, negotiations for the release of Mr. Paolo continued between the three State government officials and the two mediators — B.D. Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty.

Mr. Mohanty told The Hindu that the talks were still in progress and it would continue on Wednesday.

Mr. Sharma and Mr. Mohanty have sought the Chief Minister's intervention in addressing the 13 demands raised by the Maoists for the release of the Italian hostage.

Another Italian national, Claudio Colangelo, who was kidnapped along with Mr. Paolo, was released on Sunday as a goodwill gesture. While releasing Mr. Colangelo, the Maoists had said that they would not free Mr. Paolo until their demands were met.

The major demands of both factions of the CPI (Maoist) include a complete halt of Operation Green Hunt, release of a large number of tribals lodged in jail for their alleged links with Maoists as well as some political prisoners.