Odisha urges Maoists to join mainstream (Lead)

May 22nd, 2012 - 12:05 am ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, May 21 (IANS) Odisha Monday urged Maoists to shun violence and join the mainstream, soon after after a rebel leader warned the state government of consequences for not keeping the promises made to secure the release of two Italians kidnapped by his group more than two months ago.

“I appeal again to my misguided young brothers and sisters…who have gone to the Maoist cause, to the law of the jungle…I request them to return to the mainstream,” Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik told reporters, assuring that those who return to the mainstream will be rehabilitated.

Patnaik’s appeal came after Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda, in an audio message released to the media late Sunday, reminded the government that it had promised to facilitate the release of several prisoners.

Besides the government had also promised to fulfill other demands, including a halt on operations against the rebels and imposing a ban on tourism in tribal areas, he said.

Accusing the government of not keeping those promises, Panda said his wife Subhashree had been released but fresh charges had been slapped on her. He added that another prisoner Arati Majhi was yet to come out of jail.

The guerrilla leader alleged that Majhi, a 22-year-old tribal woman was raped by security forces two years ago and was still in jail on a false charge. He said the government had been spreading lies through the media even though it had not fulfilled its promises.

Coming down heavily on the state government for launching an offensive against the rebels in the area controlled by his group, Panda said his “soldiers” had stayed away from violence ever since they announced a ceasefire following the abduction of two Italians.

He has threatened to resort to “revolutionary violence” if the government continues to attack them.

Panda’s group had kidnapped Italian tour guide Bosusco Paolo and an Italian tourist Claudio Colangelo March 14 from a forested area of Kandhamal district. The rebels had released Colangelo 11 days later as a “goodwill gesture”.

They, however, released Paolo only on April 12 after the state government signed an agreement with two Maoist-backed mediators, Dandapani Mohanty and tribal expert B.D. Sharma, that at least five prisoners named by the guerrillas would be released.

The government had also assured that other issues raised by the rebels would be resolved.

The state government on the other hand refuted Panda’s allegation and said the government has been working to keep the commitments.

“We are implementing the commitments,” state Home Secretary U.N. Behera said. He also refuted the charge that fresh case has been registered against Panda’s wife.

“It was an old case of 2008 which has been pending against her,” he said.

Regarding the release of other prisoners he said those whose bail petitions were rejected in a lower court should move the higher court.

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