Fresh talks were held today between the Odisha government and the Maoist mediators, a day after the government named the 27 jailed people to be freed in return for the release of BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka and Italian Paolo Bosusco taken hostage by two separate Naxal groups.
However, the abductors of 37-year-old Laxmipur MLA and 54-year-old Italian were yet to respond to the announcement of the names of prisoners to be freed.
While the three-member state government team was led by Home Secretary U N Behera, the two Maoist-nominated negotiators were B D Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty.
The focus of discussion was to examine the names of persons whose release from jails would be facilitated, while 12 other points in the 13-point charter of demands put forward by the abductors of the Italian were also deliberated. Though it was not immediately clear what transpired during the talks, the need to speed up the process of the Italian's release was believed to have been emphasised by the government side, sources said.
Sabyasachi Panda, Secretary of Odisha State Organising Committee of CPI (Maoist), had in an audio message demanded immediate release from jail of seven persons, including his wife Subhashree Das alias Mili Panda for Bosusco's release.
Subhashree's name figures in the list of four persons proposed to be freed for the release of Bosusco.
Meanwhile, there was no word from the Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee of CPI (Maoist) which owned responsibility for the abduction of Hikaka, though it had extended the deadline for fulfilment of their demands till tomorrow for the release the BJD MLA.
A Maoist leader telephoned a section of the media yesterday, saying the deadline, which was to end last evening, had been extended till the evening of April 7.
While announcing the names of 27 prisoners to be freed in the Assembly yesterday, the chief minister said the state government would take legal steps for their release. Among them, 15 belonged to the Naxal-backed Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha and eight were Maoists whose release from jails would be facilitated for freeing the abducted tribal BJD legislator.
The four others to be freed are from the list furnished by the Odisha State Organising Committee of CPI (Maoist), which is behind the abduction of Bosusco, a Puri-based Italian tour operator.
"As you can see, the state government has made this gesture on humanitarian grounds. I hope that the Maoists will reciprocate in a similar spirit and release the MLA and the Italian national immediately," Patnaik had said.
The eight Maoists to be released included six from Odisha and a couple from Andhra Pradesh Murla Neelam Reddy and his wife Setu Pangi. Bosusco had been kidnapped along with another Italian Claudio Colangelo while they were trekking in Kandhamal district on March 14. Colangelo was freed on March 25. A day earlier, Hikaka was abducted from Koraput district when he was returning home at Laxmipur in the Maoist infested region.
Italian Ambassador Giacomo Sanfelice di Monteforte met the chief minister here last evening and discussed the hostage crisis involving Bosusco.
With the names of those to be released announced, the twin hostage crisis appeared to be moving towards an early resolution, an official said.