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Orissa government accepts demands, hostages to be freed in 48 hours

Tuesday February 22, 2011 10:10:05 PM, IANS

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Bhubaneswa: The district collector and engineer kidnapped by Maoists in Orissa last week are safe and will be back at home in 48 hours as the state government had agreed to all the guerrillas' demands, officials said Tuesday.

"We expressed our satisfaction at the outcome of our mediation," said G. Haragopal, one of the three mediators chosen by the rebels, adding that the mediators were working on the modalities for the hostages' release in the next 48 hours.

The announcement came after state Home Secretary U.N. Behera and Panchayati Raj Secretary S.N. Tripathy held talks with the negotiators Dandapani Mohanty and academicians G. Haragopal and R. Someswar Rao at a state guest house here for hours.

"We agreed on all 14 issues," Behera told reporters Tuesday.

"Now that all issues have been resolved, the mediators have given us firm commitment on the safe return of the collector and junior engineer," he said.

Malkangiri District Collector R. Vineel Krishna and junior engineer Pabitra Mohan Majhi were abducted by the Maoists Feb 16. The Maoists, in a letter to the government, listed their demands for the safe release of the two hostages.

These included halting anti-Maoist operations by security forces, release of all political prisoners, scrapping of accords with MNCs for land transfer and projects, and compensation for the families of Maoist sympathisers killed in police custody.

The government stopped anti-Maoist operation Feb 17 and Monday agreed to eight of their 14 demands, mostly relating to human rights violations and displacement by various development projects.

A Maoist was also granted bail in a case by a local court Tuesday.

Maoist Srinivas Srimanulu is currently lodged in a jail in Malkangiri district, and is facing several charges.

"He got bail only in one case," a senior state police officer told IANS after the proceedings in the Malkangiri court. "He will still be inside jail as four more criminal cases are pending against him."

The release of Srimanulu was one of the several conditions the rebels had made to speed up negotiation for the safe release of the hostages, sources said.

It was not yet known if the government has any role in the release, but the development was seen by many as a step to facilitate the negotiation.

Hours before the dialogue began Tuesday, two mediators met a top Maoist leader who was brought to a jail here to speed up negotiations.

"A special police team brought Ganti Prasadam from a jail in Koraput to Bhubaneswar by road. Prasadam reached here early Tuesday. He has been kept in the city's Jharpada jail," a senior police officer told IANS.

"As soon as he arrived, two of the mediators met him in jail and held discussions with him," he added. Haragopal and Mohanty met Prasadam.

The presence of the Maoist ideologue, who has been facing several charges in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa, was sought by mediators negotiating with the government for the safe release of the hostages.

According to sources, the state police secured a prison transfer warrant from a court and brought Ganti Prasadam from a jail in Andhra Pradesh Saturday night.

His lawyer Monday moved a bail petition in the Orissa High Court in Cuttack, 26 km from here.

The government lawyer may not oppose this bail petition to facilitate the negotiation process.

"The court is likely to take up the petition for hearing Wednesday," a senior police officer said.

After that, it depends on the court as it is the prerogative of the judge to decide if he wants to grant bail or not, an expert said. Along with Prasadam, four other Maoists also Monday moved their bail petitions in the high court.








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