Government-Maoist talks resume in Odisha hostage crisis

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The Odisha government and the Maoist-nominated mediators on Monday resumed negotiation to free the abducted Italian as Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik made a fresh appeal to the Naxals to release him.

"I had requested mediators of the CPI (Maoist) B.D. Sharma and Dandpani Mohanty to continue discussion with the state government. I inform the House that discussions have resumed," Patnaik said while making a statement on the hostage crisis involving Italian national Paolo Posusco and ruling BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka.

While Dr Sharma and Mohanty are representing the Maoists, Home Secretary U.N. Behera, Panchayat raj secretary P.K. Jena and SC/ST Development secretary S.K. Sarangi are representing the government.

He, however, said that the government was yet to receive any demand from the abductors of the Laxmipur MLA.

The talks with Maoist mediators were suspended on March 24 in the wake of Hikaka's abduction by another group of Maoists in Koraput district early that day.

Expressing happiness over the release of one of the two Italian hostages, Claudio Colangelo, on Sunday, Patnaik told the House that the Italian national had already arrived in the state capital and was safe.

"I again appeal to the Maoists to release the second Italian national, Puri-based tour operator Paolo Posusco, immediately and see that he is unharmed," Patnaik said.

"I also appeal to the abductors of the young MLA to release him immediately and unharmed," Patnaik said describing Hikaka as an excellent lawmaker having record of working hard for the welfare of tribals and the poor.

When Patnaik was making statement in the House, Opposition Congress member demanded his resignation and shouted anti-government slogans.

"Patnaik has forged alliance with Maoists in order to form zilla parishads in Koraput district. Hikaka has played a leading role in the understanding between the ruling party and Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha allegedly backed by Maoists," Opposition leader Bhupinder Singh alleged. The House was adjourned till three pm.

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