Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Two Italian tourists were abducted by a group of Maoists inOdisha, in the district of Kandhamal, in Orissa. In exchange for the release, the revolutionary groupwants the army to call off its operation against them and the government toopen up negotiations. The news was broadcast by NDTV television.
The Indian police hasconfirmed the fact happened last night, but said that there are no details fornow. An audio message from the highest local Maoist leader, Sabyasachi Panda,confirms the abduction and demands. The deadline to fulfill them isscheduled for tonight.
The Italian Foreign Ministry confirmed the kidnapping this morning. The news reports are somewhatconfused: it is said that Italian tourists were kidnapped while takingphotographs of tribal women bathing in an area prohibited by the rules of theState. It would be the first time the Maoists - who are fighting for theindependence of their regions, inhabited by ethnic minorities - have resortedto kidnapping foreigners. Kandhamaldistrict is where the 2008 pogrom against Christians took place, but theauthors of the killings were fundamentalists and Hindu nationalists,traditional enemies of the Maoists.
The only certain fact is the set of 13 demands that the Maoists havepresented to the government, similar to those made a year ago when theykidnapped a government representative of Malkangiri, R Vineel Krishna. The demands include the release ofpolitical prisoners and a halt to Operation Greenhunt against the Maoists.
Speaking to AsiaNews after police confirmation,the District Collector [representative of the local government] Pravakar RajeshPatil said that "the kidnapping of the tourists is a sad fact." Hepointed out that the Maoists kidnappers, usually, "communicate with themedia, they have their sources to make public their information and will notsend any official communication."
Patil believes that the Maoists are behind the kidnapping, although theinvolvement of others is not to be "100%" excluded.
"This - he added - is bad news for the tourism sector. But theMaoist problem exists. We do not know exactly the reasons and circumstances inwhich the Italian tourists were kidnapped. All efforts have been made at the highest level, we are on the job tosecure their release. "