BHUBANESWAR: Maoists Friday refused to release the Italian tour operator Bosusco Paolo they have kept hostage in Odisha since March 14 even though the government offered a swap.
Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda, in an audio message which was aired by some local television channels, described the talks the government held with the Maoists-backed mediators as a "farce" and said the Italian will be not be released. Criticizing the government for not signing any agreement with the rebel-backed mediators on their demands, Panda also said his group will take an "extreme step" if the government does not fulfil their basic demands by Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, two mediators sought clarifications from the Odisha government on its swap offer to secure the release of the Italian and a state legislator from Maoist captivity.
The interlocutors sought the clarifications a day after Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik named 27 people, including Sabyasachi Panda's wife, who would be swapped in exchange for the freedom of the Italian and the legislator. Dandapani Mohanty, one of the Maoist-backed mediators, said it was not clear how the government was going to facilitate the release. "We have asked them (officials representing the government).
"They said they will reply," Mohanty told reporters after holding talks with three senior officials representing the government at the state guest house here. Mohanty also said the mediators don't have any information from the Maoists on whether they would release the Italian hostage on the basis of the chief minister's announcement.
"At this moment, we don't have any suggestions or objections. The Maoists have to respond," he said. The Maoists have held hostage Italian tour operator Bosusco Paolo and Biju Janata Dal legislator Jhina Hikaka since March 14 and March 24, respectively.
While the Italian was abducted by the Odisha unit of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) from Kandhamal district, the legislator was kidnapped by the Andhra-Odisha border special zonal committee from Koraput district. Both the groups have been asking the government to fulfil 13 demands, including the release of several prisoners, who they claimed are languishing in state jails on false charges. Mohanty and tribal expert B.D. Sharma have been holding talks with the government for the past several days to secure the release of the Italian after the abductors announced their names.