Has desperation put Maoists in Odisha at the Italian job?

Old agreement not honoured yet, state govt on the back foot


Prasanna Mohanty | March 19, 2012

The abduction of two Italians, Bosusco Paolo and Clavdio Colangelo, by the Maoists in Odisha seems to be a desperate attempt of the ultras to attract national and international attention and put pressure on the state government to fulfil the promises made at the time of securing the release of then Malkangiri collector R Vineel Krishna from their custody in February 2011.

It also seems to be a desperate act of Sabyasachi Panda, state secretary of the CPI (Maoist)’s Odisha state organising committee who finds himself increasingly marginalised in the decision-making process of his own organisation, to re-assert his relevance. His marginalisation has a lot to do with his unilateral decisions to kill VHP leader Laxmananda Saraswati in Kandhamal which led to communal violence in 2008 and the killing of BJP MLA Jagabandu Majhi from Nabarangapur district in 2011. Moreover, ever since the merger of the MCC and PWG in 2004, it is the Andhra cadre Maoists who are running the show. Panda is a native of Odisha.

At the time of negotiating for the release of Malkangiri collector in February 2011, the state government had agreed to a 14-point charter of demands, which included release of a few Maoist leaders and more than 600 members lodged in various state jails and a host of public welfare measures. The state released five senior leaders at the time and promised to implement the rest. Subsequently, the only other thing that the state did was to pay compensation for custodial deaths.

While officially claiming responsibility for the abduction, the Maoists have listed another 13-point charter of demands. Most of these demands are a repeat of the ones made and agreed to by the state government in 2011 – stop Operation Green Hunt and withdraw security forces, release Maoist leaders and cadre in jails, withdraw false cases against its members, grant ST status to some hill tribes of the state, provide drinking water, irrigation, schools and hospitals in tribal areas, etc.

Dandapani Mohanty, one of the three mediators who secured the release of Malkangiri collector, minces no words while condemning the callous attitude of the state government. “The state has not only not honoured the agreement, it has launched a campaign to malign us through false propaganda. No, I don’t want to mediate this time”, he said when asked if he would help secure the release of the Italians.

The union home ministry is, in the meanwhile, following a wait-and-watch policy, the law and order being a state subject. But a senior official said that the ministry has promised all help to the state government in terms of logistics and security assistance.

The state government, which has already received the 13-point demand from the Maoists, seems willing to negotiate with the ultras but no back-channel talks have started so far.




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