BHUBANESWAR: Ending days of speculation, the Maoist interlocutors on Saturday called time on the negotiation for Italian hostage Paolo Bosusco’s release and announced that it is time to go. The announcement came with appeals to both the sides.
The mediators __ Dr BD Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty __ appealed to the CPI (Maoist)’s Odisha State Organising Committee to free Paolo on humanitarian grounds and in the same breath urged the State Government to drop charges against those branded as Maoists and are languishing in jails.
Neither the Government nor the interlocutors were committal if they managed to reach any agreement on any of the 13 demands during the 10-day negotiation.
The announcement came minutes after the negotiators appointed by the Odisha Government had a brief meeting with Sharma and Mohanty. Home Secretary Upendra Nath Behera said there was no discussion on the 13 demands on the day. “We came to meet and apprise them of the Government’s stand that the demands are under examination,” he said before leaving the State Guest House, venue of the negotiations for the last 10 days.
Close to eight days after Paolo and Italian tourist Claudio Colangelo were abducted from Ganjam-Kandhamal borders on March 14 night, the negotiations had started. However, it was suspended on March 24 in the wake of MLA Jhina Hikaka’s abduction before resuming two days later. It again stalemated on March 28, a day after the two interlocutors summarised the 13 demands and placed them before the State Government, which then started buying time.
“Since the issues are complex and taking time, we will return to our homes with the hope of an early resolution,” Sharma said. The interlocutors read out a statement which said, “In the context of significant vacuum in many ways, the mediators are obliged to wait. In this situation, we appreciate the State’s efforts for taking a serious view of the complex issues that are plaguing the tribal areas.”
Stating that they have no problem continuing the discussions, Sharma said they do not want to cool their heels. “The end of talks does not mean the negotiation has stopped. If the Government wants us back for taking forward the discussion anytime, we are happy to help,” Mohanty said. ‘’It was not possible to wait indefinitely though.”
While the turn of events has put a question mark on release of Paolo, sources close to the Maoists camp informed that the Italian could be freed shortly. The two also said they would be happy “if the most important chapter concerning justice begins with withdrawal of cases against those who are struggling for their legitimate rights as citizens,” thereby hinting at release of political prisoners.