Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) - One of the mediators chosen by Maoist rebels to negotiate with the authorities for the release of two Italians abducted in Orissa is reluctant to accept the task because he has doubts as to the sincerity of the state administration. "Past experience shows the state government has failed to keep its word. It will be pointless to be part of talks if the government backtracks later," human rights activist Biswapriya Kanungo said.
In an audio message made public yesterday, the Maoist group that abducted Paolo Bosusco and Claudio Colangelo in Kandhamal District extended their midnight deadline by 24 hours to give the authorities time to respond to their list of demands, which includes the appointment of three mediators: Narayan Sanyal, a jailed politburo member of the Communist Party of India-Maoist, civil rights activist and rebel sympathiser Dandapani Mohanty and Kanungo.
Maoists issued a list of 14 conditions, including a halt to anti-Maoist operations, scrapping land transfers and projects in tribal areas, financial compensation to Maoist sympathisers killed in police custody and the release of 600 prisoners. They also want an end to the commodification of tribal people, including a ban on tourists visiting tribal areas and prosecution of all those who break this ban.
The two Italian men were abducted in an area that was off-limits to outsiders, the Gazalbadi forest. However, friends of the two say that both were very careful to respect tribal peoples.
Yesterday, a rally were held in Kandhamal for the two men's release with the participation of students, activists, government employees and women.
As a token of their goodwill, Maoists announced a unilateral ceasefire in Orissa, asking other groups in neighbouring states to refrain from any violent action against the authorities. They also said that the two hostages were being treated well and fed every day.
The Maoist 14-point list is the same one the government accepted a year ago after the abduction and release of the then Malkangiri Collector (administrator) Vineel Krishna.
On that occasion, rebels respected the deal; the government did not. The former released the collector in exchange of a few Tribals held in prison, whereas the government refused to abide by the agreement.