New Delhi: The Maoists responsible for the abduction of two Italian nationals in Odisha on Monday named three mediators for holding talks with the government.
Some sections of the local media said that the three interlocuters were Narayan Sanyal, who is in jail in Jharkhand; Dandapani Mohanti, who helped negotiate between the state government and Maoists to facilitate release of former Malkangiri collector; And Biswapriya Kanunga who is an Odisha based lawyer and human rights activist.
Said Mohanti, "Three of us have been nominated by the kidnappers to hold negotiation with Odisha government for safe release of the two Italian hostages."
According to the local media, the Maoists have given a deadline till Tuesday for the government to act on their demands.
The Maoists reportedly want the government to stop their operations against the Naxals in the state. They also want some of their leaders to be released from jails.
Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda, while speaking to reporters, said, "The Italian hostages are safe. We have appealed to the Odisha government to clearly declare halt to combing operations."
He further said that all the "Maoist colleagues" had been asked to not to resort to violence. The Maoists have reportedly announced a unilateral ceasefire and appealed to other naxal groups to do the same.
The development is seen as a positive sign towards resolution of the crisis since Puri-based tour operator Paolo Bosusco and Italian tourist Claudio Colangelo were abducted while trekking in Kandhamal on March 14.
Selection of mediators came shortly after Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik asked the abductors to nominate their representatives without any further delay and announced halt to coercive action by security personnel if Maoists stop violence.
India has, meanwhile, assured Italy that it will seek the hostages' early release. Italian Foreign Minister Giulio Terzi spoke to his Indian counterpart SM Krishna who assured him that the Odisha government was taking all steps to secure their early release.
With additional information from PTI