Milan: The two Italians kidnapped by Maoists in Odisha were cautioned by police not to travel into Maoist areas, Indian Consul General Sanjay Verma said.
“It’s an unfortunate incident, but the two Italians were cautioned by the police not to go inside the forest due to Maoist activities,” Verma told IANS.
He said Paolo had been trekking in Odisha for a number of years.
Verma said that the two Italians knew that the place was not very safe due to the presence of Maoists. The duo also gnored travel advisories on the website of the Italian foreign ministry.
He assured that “the state government of Odisha and the central government in New Delhi are making all efforts to ensure safe release of the two Italian nationals”.
Bosusco Paolo, 54, and Claudio Colangelo, 61, were kidnapped March 14. They had gone along with two Indians, Santosh Moharana and Kartika Parida, to Kandhamal district March 12 on a four-day trekking trip.
On March 14, about six to seven people came with guns when they were sitting near a rivulet. The rebels took the four to the forest after tying their hands and covering their eyes with a cloth. The rebels released the two Indians March 16 but kept the Italians hostage.
On one of the demands from the Maoists on a tourism ban in tribal areas, Verma spoke of the importance of “responsible tourism”. He explained that responsible tourism means tourism in tune with the customs, tradition and culture of the place.
Tourism should not affect the way of life of the tribal people. If there are areas for which there are guidelines or rules not to visit, tourists should not venture into these areas, he said.
“Per se stopping of tourism in tribal areas would not be prudent for India as a country or tribal people themselves, as it will deprive them of the economic activities and means of better livelihood,” he added.
He quickly added: “This incident will not affect India’s tourism as such but definitely for the district of Kandhamal or the state of Odisha it can be a matter of concern, particularly from Italy.”
The ties between Italy and India became strained after Indian fishermen Ajesh Binki, 25, and Gelastine, 45, were allegedly shot dead Feb 15 by Italian marines, Latorre Massimillano and Salvatore Girone, who mistook them to be pirates. The marines were on board cargo vessel Enrica Lexie, about 14 nautical miles off Alappuzha in Kerala.
To a query on whether the abduction has become diplomatically more important due to the fishermen’s killing, Verma replied: “The two are absolutely different incidents. If one incident is an orange, the other can be said to be an apple. Both the incident are unfortunate but are not connected.”
“…the marines are facing trial and I would refrain from commenting in a sub judice case in front of courts of law in India. In the second incident, the Maoists who are termed as terrorist by the applicable Indian law have kidnapped two Italians.
“These incidents won’t have long term negative effect on Indo-Italian relations. Our bilateral relations are much wider and deeper than (this),” he added.
By Kanika Mehrotra (Source: IANS)