M A I N   N E W S

Maoists release Collector, JE

Bhubaneswar, February 22
After being held hostage for seven days, Malkangiri district collector RV Krishna and a junior engineer were released by the Maoists tonight hours after the Orissa Government conceded the remaining six of their 14 demands.

Naxal ideologue Varavara Rao said the Maoists handed over Krishna and Pabitra Majhi to "four sarpanchs" in the Govindpur area in Chitrakonda forests, about 150 km from Malkangiri. However, there was no official confirmation that the two officials were set free. Jay Panda, a ruling BJD MP, said, “The information that I have is that both collector and the engineer have been released. We welcome the development.”

Celebrations broke out outside the residence of Krishna in Malkangiri, about 650 km from here, as news of the release of the hugely popular officer trickled in. Both Krishna and Majhi were reported to be on their way home to Malkangiri late tonight. Hopes of an early release of the kidnapped duo brightened this evening following three days of intense negotiations between the Maoist-appointed mediators and the Orissa Government representatives after which the remaining six of the 14 demands were conceded today.

After wrapping up the talks with the state government, the mediators said Krishna and Majhi would return within 48 hours. Home secretary UN Behera said the hostage crisis has been resolved. "Both will be freed and will be back within 48 hours," Prof G Hargopal, one of the Maoist-chosen interlocutors, told reporters at the conclusion of the talks. Hargopal said the mediators were satisfied at the outcome of the parleys.

Behera said it was agreed that cases against five Maoists, including Ganti Prasadam and Padma, wife of top Naxal Ramakrishna, will be withdrawn after following due process of law. The government also agreed that there would be no coercive action by security forces as long as the Maoists do not indulge in unlawful activities, he said.

Twelve Maoists, including hardcore rebel leader Sriramalu Srinivasalu, were today released on bail in one case by a fast track court, which apparently expedited the release of the two officials. They will, however, be behind the bars in connection with another case. — PTI





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