The hostage crisis in Odisha continued on Monday with the ruling Biju Janata Dal legislator Jhina Hikaka and Italian tour operator Bosusco Paolo remaining in the clutches of different groups of Maoists operating in the State.
While the process of negotiation for the release of Mr. Paolo resumed between the two mediators and three government officials here, the Srikakulam-Koraput Divisional Committee (SKDC) of the Communist Party of India (Maoist), which had kidnapped Mr. Hikaka, said it was not in favour of talks.
In a letter sent to some presspersons in Koraput, the committee said it would release Mr. Hikaka only when the State government conceded to their demands, which include an immediate stop to Operation Green Hunt and the release of political prisoners and activists of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (CMAS) from different jails.
The kidnappers also sent a letter addressed to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, bearing the name of the legislator. In the letter, Mr. Hikaka said he was safe and that in order to ensure his release the government should fulfil the Maoists' demands.
Mr. Paolo was kidnapped by the Maoists belonging to the Odisha State Committee (ODC) of the CPI(Maoist) from Kandhamal district on March 14 along with Italian tourist Claudio Colangelo, while Mr. Hikaka was abducted by the cadres of the SKDC from Koraput early on Saturday.
Mr. Colangelo was released by the Maoists on Sunday as a goodwill gesture after the negotiation for the release of the two Italians was suspended on Saturday. While handing Mr. Colangelo over to a small team of presspersons, the organising secretary of the banned outfit's ODC had reiterated the demand for a halt in the anti-Maoist operation and the release of the people who had been arrested again soon after they had been acquitted by different courts of law in the State.
For Mr. Paolo's release, top Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda had also demanded registration of cases against police officials and security personnel who were responsible for the incidents of rape, fake encounter and custodial torture leading to death, in accordance with the existing laws.
The negotiation for the release of Mr. Paolo resumed between the officials and two interlocutors, B.D. Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty, after the Chief Minister on Sunday changed his stand on the question of mediators. Hours after the mediators told presspersons on Saturday that they were suspending the negotiation in the wake of the abduction of Mr. Hikaka, Mr. Patnaik requested the Maoists to name new mediators. He, however, said his government was ready to hold talks with the mediators.
While continuing talks for Mr. Paolo's release, the State is trying to find other ways to ensure Mr. Hikaka's release after the abductors had refused talks.