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Engineer freed, Orissa awaits collector Krishna

Wednesday February 23, 2011 07:46:47 PM, IANS

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

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.  »

Hundreds hold rally seeking Orissa collector's release

Bhubaneswar: Orissa's junior engineer Pabitra Mohan Majhi, freed by Maoists from their custody Wednesday, said the kidnapped Malkangiri District Collector R. Vineel Krishna was safe and the rebels will free him within 48 hours. People across the state were glued to television sets, awaiting the news of Krishna's release.

"He (collector) is safe and is still in the cut-off area. I do not know the exact location. The Maoists said they will release him within 48 hours," Majhi said at a press conference in the district headquarter town of Malkangiri, about 618 km from here.

"They fed us rice and dal and we were being moved from one place to another" during the week-long captivity, he said.

Majhi also said the rebels did not cause any mental or physical harm to them.

Replying to a question about reports that the collector was ill and refused food, Majhi said: "He was in good health and was eating fine."

Majhi was released from the same Chitrakonda area, about 700 km from Bhubaneswar, from where he was kidnapped along with District Collector Krishna Feb 16, sending shock waves across the country.

"We don't have any information so far about the release of the collector," a senior state police officer said.

The state government and people from various walks of life, including women, children and media persons, anxiously watched television sets for the latest updates. Thousands of people also rushed to the collector's official residence.

Curiously, a top Maoist leader who was granted bail as part of the mediation process refused to leave prison, negotiators said.

Wednesday saw the state high court grant bail to Maoist ideologue Ganti Prasadam - one of the seven top rebels whose release was sought in exchange for the freedom of the abducted officials. But Prasadam refused to leave prison, negotiators said.

"Until and unless the government takes steps for the release of over 600 innocent people languishing in various jails on the charge of being involved in Maoist activities, Prasadam says he will not leave prison," said Dandapani Mohanty, one of the mediators.

Orissa Police, on a prison transfer granted by a court, brought Ganti Prasadam from a jail in Andhra Pradesh Saturday night after the mediators sought his presence to speed up the negotiations process that started Sunday.

Prasadam has been facing several charges in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. His bail petition was moved Monday in the Orissa High Court in Cuttack, 26 km from here, after it was rejected by a lower court.

The Maoists had set 14 conditions, including the halt to anti-Maoist operations, release of all political prisoners, and scrapping of accords with multi-national companies for land transfer and projects in Orissa.

The government agreed to all the demands after holding negotiations for three days in state capital Bhubaneswar with the three mediators - Mohanty and academicians Haragopal and R. Someswar Rao, all chosen by Maoists.

The release of the junior engineer came after Haragopal said Tuesday night that both the hostages will be released within 48 hours.







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