Bhubaneswar: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Thursday announced the names of 27 people, including a Maoist’s wife, whose release will facilitate the freeing of an Italian and a legislator being held captive by Maoists.
Patnaik said the decision to facilitate the release was taken on humanitarian grounds and he expected the rebels would reciprocate and release the hostages unharmed at the earliest.
“The government will take necessary legal steps of facilitating the release of these 27 persons,” the chief minister said in a statement in the state assembly.
“The government has made this gesture on humanitarian grounds. I do hope the Maoists will reciprocate in a similar spirit,” he added.
Among those to be released is Subhashree alias Mili Panda, the wife of top Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda.
While the two mediators backed by the abductors of the Italian refused to comment on the announcement saying it was premature, the group holding the legislator announced the extension of deadline to Saturday for fulfilment of all their demands. Earlier they had set a Thursday deadline.
Giacomo Sanfelice di Monteforte, the Italian ambassador to India, met Patnaik and discussed steps the government had taken to free the Italian.
“He gave me information about the developments of the negotiations,” the ambassador told reporters after his meeting with the chief minister.
“I from my side expressed to the Chief Minister how this deliberation…is being closely followed in Italy, of course, by his family, friends and by the Italian authorities particularly by the Italy ministry of foreign affairs,” he added.
Subhashree Panda is facing trial in a number of cases for alleged Maoist activities. She is also facing the charge of sedition.
Sabyasachi is the secretary of the state unit organising committee of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist). His group has kept Italian tour operator Bosusco Paolo hostage since March 14.
Patnaik Wednesday announced the decision to release 23 people, including eight Maoists, in exchange for legislator Jhina Hikaka, who has been held captive by the Maoists since March 24.
Patnaik had also announced the release of four other people to secure the release of Italian tour operator Bosusco Paolo held hostage since March 14.