Engineer freed, Orissa awaits news on collector (Second Lead)

February 23rd, 2011 - 7:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, Feb 23 (IANS) Orissa was yet to get news of the kidnapped Malkangiri district collector Wednesday even as a junior engineer abducted along with him by Maoists exactly a week ago was set free. Curiously, a top Maoist leader who was granted bail as part of the mediation process refused to leave prison, negotiators said. Junior engineer Pabitra Mohan Majhi was released from the same Chitrakonda area, about 700 km from this city, from where he had been kidnapped along with district collector R. Vineel Krishna Feb 16, sending shockwaves across the country .

“The Maoists have released the junior engineer in the same Chitrakonda area,” a senior police official told IANS. “We don’t have any information so far about the release of the collector,” he said.

People from various walks of life, including women, children and mediapersons thronged the official residence of the district collector at Malkangiri town, 700 km from here, to see if the hostages were back. But officials said the collector had not reached.

Wednesday also saw bail being granted to Maoist ideologue Ganti Prasadam - one of the seven top rebels whose release was sought in exchange for the freedom of the abducted officials - by the state high court. 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 charge of being involved in Maoist activities, Prasadam says he will not leave prison, said Dandapani Mohanty, one of the mediators.

Orissa police had secured a prison transfer warrant from a court and brought Ganti Prasadam from a jail in Andhra Pradesh Saturday night after his presence was sought by the mediators to speed up the negotiation process that started Sunday.

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

The Maoists had set 14 conditions, including the halting of anti-Maoist operations, release of all political prisoners, and scrapping of accords with multi-national companies.

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. Thousands of people in Orissa Wednesday anxiously awaited the arrival of Krishna.

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