Hikaka's abductors turn down request to name mediators

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The abductors of BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka on Thursday turned down the Odisha government's request to name negotiators for talks, while parleys for the release of Italian Paolo Bosusco from Maoist captivity remained stalled as the rebels' mediators alleged delaying tactics by the authorities.

While the state government was waiting for the abductors of the 37-year-old Laxmipur MLA to name their mediators, the Koraput-Srikakulam division of the CPI (Maoist) in a letter to the media stuck to its stand of not joining talks through mediators to resolve the hostage crisis.

The letter asked the government to fulfil at the earliest their demands which include a halt to all types of anti-Maoist operation, release of the jailed rebels and stoppage of rallies and demonstrations for the release of the MLA, abducted on March 24.

The government would be held responsible for any eventuality in case there was delay and attempt to buy time, the letter, addressed to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, wife of the abducted legislator and several other leaders, said.

The communication came after the chief minister on Tuesday night asked the ultras to join the negotiation process to resolve the issue and name representatives quickly. A senior official said it would be difficult to settle the complex issue without talks.

"The rebels should understand that it is a highly sensitive issue which can be settled better through face-to-face talks," he said.

Meanwhile, talks for the release of the Italian Puri-based tour operator Paolo Bosusco remained suspended as the Maoist mediators accused the government of buying time and warned it would be responsible if any harm was caused to the hostage.

"Talks have been suspended. There has been delay in resolving the issue as the government is buying time instead of sincerely responding to the demands of Maoists," said rebel mediators B.D. Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty who suspended talks on Wednesday night.

The Maoist-nominated mediators said there was no agreement so far on any of the 13 demands made by the ultras during talks with the state government representatives led by Home Secretary U.N. Behera, and under the circumstances it was pointless to continue the negotiations.

They also warned that the state government would be held responsible if any harm was caused to the Italian being held captive since March 14. Another Italian Claudio Colangelo, 61, was freed on March 25 by the rebels.

Accusing the chief minister of misleading people, Sharma and Mohanty termed as 'unfortunate' Patnaik's claim that some additional demands had been made and maintained that there were 13 demands which had earlier been placed before the government.

Patnaik had earlier claimed that the state government received some additional demands from the mediators which were being examined.

Without elaborating on the nature of the fresh demands, the chief minister said as their examination might take a day or more, the negotiation between the three government negotiators and two Maoist mediators might be delayed for a brief period.

Regarding demands made by the abductors of the BJD legislator from Toyaput in Koraput district on March 24, the Odisha government has said some Maoist demands like halt to the combing operation and release of jailed ultras had been conceded.

The chief minister has also said that cases against 83 activists of the Naxal-backed Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS) had been withdrawn.

The latest letter from the MLA's abductors bearing the name of Daya, secretary of Koraput-Srikakulam division of Maoists, alleged atrocities by the police against tribals and rebels in Koraput and Nabarangpur districts. It also accused political leaders of being silent to these 'atrocities'.

The six-page letter further alleged that securitymen were attacking tribals in Narayanpatna and Laxmipur areas of Koraput district in the name of combing operations, but political leaders kept silent.

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