Bhubaneswar: Maoists holding one of the two Italians hostage since March 14 reiterated Monday that the government must concede their demands in order to secure his release. Sabyasachi Panda, a rebel leader known as Sunil, said in a latest audio message aired by television channels that the government must free some of the people arrested for Maoist activities. He said that the Maoists would be compelled to take the ‘extreme step’ against the Italian hostage Paolo Bosusco if the government resorts to unnecessary delay in accepting the demands of the Maoists.
He cited several names which include his wife Subhashree Panda, Gananath Patra, a leader fighting for tribal rights, and a tribal woman Arati Majhi who the rebels say was raped by security forces two years ago.
Panda said the authorities had not said which demands they would meet.
Accusing the government of preparing to launch a police operation against the Maoists, he said: “If such a thing happens, the life of the Italian will be under threat.”
The rebel leader, who claims he is the secretary of the state organizing committee of the Communist Party of India-Maoist, also wants a written assurance from the government.
The response from the rebels came two days after two Maoist-backed mediators appealed them to release the Italian.
Dandapani Mohanty and B.D. Sharma, the mediators, ended their talks with the government Saturday and appealed to the rebels to release the Italian tour operator Bosusco Paolo, 54, on humanitarian grounds.
The mediators also urged the government to begin the process of withdrawal of cases against some people.
Paolo was abducted along with another Italian, Claudio Colangelo, 61, from a forested area on the border of Ganjam and Kandhamal districts. The rebels March 25 had released Colangelo in a goodwill gesture.
The rebels want the government to fulfil 13 demands for the release of Paolo, including a ban on the visit of tourists to tribal areas, a halt to anti-Maoist operations and the release of several prisoners.
The government also did not have any further update on the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) legislator Jhina Hikaka, held hostage by another group of Maoists in a hilly area of Koraput district since March 24.
The group which claimed responsibility for the abduction of the legislator has made more or less the same demands. They have refused to appoint any negotiator on their behalf.