Orissa begins backdoor talks with Maoists for collector’s release


Bhubaneswar : After halting anti-Maoist operations, Orissa has began back channel discussions with the rebels as the 48-hour deadline given by them for the release of an Orissa district collector and an engineer they had abducted Wednesday neared, officials said Friday.

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The rebels took Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer R. Veenel Krishna, the district collector of Malkangiri, along with junior engineer Pabitra Mohan Majhi hostage from the Chitrakonda area in the district Wednesday evening.

The ultras had set conditions for their release that included, halting of anti-Maoist operations in the area and the release of all Maoists arrested in the past.

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

“I have discussed with him and he agreed to mediate. He has already spoken to some of the front line leaders of the Maoist group,” Behera told IANS on telephonic, adding that discussion has to be concretised.

Regarding the media reports that a Maoist group in Andhra Pradesh has given three names for the negotiation with the abductors, Behera said the government so far has not received any formal response from them.

“We are still hoping to get some direct contact,” he said.

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.

The abduction happened two days before Home Minister P. Chidambaram had scheduled a video conference with the district magistrates of 60 districts affected by the Maoist violence.

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