New Delhi: The two Italians taken hostage by Maoists in Kandhamal, Odisha, are scared but safe, according to one of the two Indians released. The Maoists have set a deadline of Sunday evening for 13 demands to be met including an end to anti-Naxal operaitons.
The Maoists treated us well, did not beat us and gave us food to eat. Both the Italian tourists are scared but are safe and have appealed through us to ensure their early release, the released Indian hostage said.
28-year-old Santosh Maharana recalls how he, along with the two Italians and another Indian, were kidnapped at gunpoint by Naxals. Both Indians are now free but Italians, Bosusco Paolo and Claudio Colangelo, are still in Maoist custody. The Maoists allege they were taking objectionable photos of the tribals. But officials say the Italians had merely gone on a trek.
Paulo one of the abducted tourist was operating from a shop in Puri for the last two decades. He used to run his adventure tourism industry and used to often travel to kandhamal and people there knew him.
The Maoists' allegation doesnt wash with 55-year-old Firoz Din, who has been Paolo's neighbour and friend for 15 years.
"I felt very sad when I heard of his abduction. He is a good person and I'm sure he will be released soon by the Maoist," Din said.
The state police claim the Italians didn't heed repeated warnings.
SP, Puri Anup Sahoo said, "He was warned by the Kandhamal police not to go to the Maoists areas but he didn't listen.
But with the Italian government now mounting pressure to secure their early rlease, the state administration is in a fix. The Maoists have made 13 demands, the major of which is to halt all anti-Naxal operations. But, despite an appeal from Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, the Naxals have not come forward to talk.
"We are waiting for any indications from their side to see whom we can talk to on their behalf," Patnaik said.
Just over a year ago in a similar hostage crisis the then collector of Malakangiri district was abducted and was released after eight days of hectic negotiations. This time around it seems the Odisha government might have to go through similar ordeal if not more.