Backdoor talks on, Orissa urges Maoists to extend deadline (Second Lead)

February 18th, 2011 - 5:00 pm ICT by IANS  

Facebook Bhubaneswar, Feb 18 (IANS) Even as backchannel talks were on Friday to secure the release of Malkangiri district collector and an engineer from Maoist captivity, Orissa has appealed to the rebels to extend their 48-hour deadline that lapses in the evening.R. Vineel Krishna, the district collector of Malkangiri, was abducted along with junior engineer Pabitra Mohan Majhi Wednesday evening. On Friday, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik appealed to the rebels not to harm them.

“We are in the process of trying to establish contact. My appeal to the concerned persons is that the deadline of this evening be extended,” Patnaik told reporters urging the abductors that no harm should come to the collector and the engineer.

State Home Secretary U.N. Behera said he had spoken to social activist Swami Agnivesh and a backdoor dialogue was on.

“I have discussed with him and he agreed to mediate. He has already spoken to some of the frontline leaders of the Maoist group,” Behera told IANS.

Regarding media reports that a Maoist group in Andhra Pradesh has given three names to conduct negotiations with the abductors, Behera said the government had not received any formal response from the guerrillas.

In the meantime, the Maoists snapped road links to Malkangiri earlier in the day and submitted a fresh set of demands for the release of Krishna and Majhi.

The rebels had earlier demanded the halting of anti-Maoist operations in the region and the release of all Maoists arrested in the past, following which combing operations were stopped across the state.

Now the rebels want that agreements the government has signed with MNCs be scrapped, a senior district police official told IANS.

The latest demands of the rebels have come through a leaflet which they have distributed to a section of media in the district, the official said. The leaflet was written in Telugu.

The fresh demands also include the release of all political prisoners and compensation for families of Maoist sympathisers killed in police custody, he said.

From colleagues to social activists to well-wishers, support has poured in from all quarters on social networking website Facebook for the safe release of the district collector.

People and government officials also Friday held rallies in different parts of the state including in Malkangiri, Koraput, Phulbani and Baliguda towns to express their support to the hostages.

The issue cast a shadow on the state assembly with opposition members disrupting proceedings and creating noisy scenes, forcing Speaker Pradip Amat to adjourn the house for several hours.

The 30-year-old collector, widely seen as a down-to-earth official, was going to inspect development projects without any guards after attending a meeting in Badapada village early Wednesday when half a dozen armed Maoists surprised him and his aides.

According to Additional District Magistrate S.L. Seal, in no time more than 50 Maoists joined the group and took the collector and junior engineer hostage.

Krishna joined the IAS in August 2005 after he graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. He moved to Malkangiri 16 months ago. Engineer Majhi, from Bhubaneswar, went to the district four months back.

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