After remaining in captivity for nine days, Malkangiri Collector R V Krishna was released today by Maoists, an official said, finally bringing to an end the tense hostage crisis in Orissa.
Chitrakonda Tahsildar D Gopalakrishna said Krishna was released by Maoists this evening and was on his way to his home in Malkangiri, which is about 90 km from the spot where the official was freed.
The 30-year-old IIT graduate-turned IAS officer was released before a “people’s court” by his abductors in a forested area in Jantapai close to the area where he was abducted along with junior engineer Pabitra Majhi on February 16, eyewitnesses said.
22-year-old Majhi was freed yesterday.TV footage showed Krishna in a check shirt and a blue pant sitting on a boulder with folded hands appearing to be in good health listening as an undientified man spoke about the problems faced by villagers.
Malkangiri is about 650 km from the state capital.Krishna, who sported an occasional smile, was also seen eating out his hand from a plate.
Inspector in-charge of Chitrakonda Rajesh Chhatria said Krishna was released at Jantapai area.
“It is a good end. it is a positive end,” said Swami Agnivesh, a Maoist sympathiser after the end of the hostage crisis which had a new twist yesterday when Maoists made fresh set of demands raising uncertainty whether the rebels will honour their commitment made on Tuesday to release the two abducted men within 48 hours.
The fresh demand was an immediate release of five naxal leaders.Orissa government had already accepted all the 14 demands made by Naxals.
Prof Hargopal, who was among the Maoist-aoppointed mediators, appealed to Maoists yesterday to release Krishna by 6 PM this evening.
Hargopal said the Maoists at no stage ever made any threat to kill Krishna Interlocuter Prof R Someswar Rao said discussions between Orissa Govt and the mediators for the release of Krishna has come to a close.
Intensifying efforts for the release of Krishna two Maoist-chosen mediators rushed to Koraput by a chopper earlier in the day for talks with the rebels.
“The interlocutors are going to Koraput by chopper,” Panchayati Raj Secretary, S N Tripathy told reporters as mediators Prof G Hargopal and Dandapani Mohanty flew to the southern district, a Maoist stronghold adjoining Maklangiri.
Official sources said the two mediators could proceed to Malkangiri from Koraput, if necessay, to be present in the Maioist-hit district as demanded by the abductors.
Before their departure, the mediators had a marathon discussion with state government officials including Tripathy and Home Secretary, U N Behera and explored various options for safe return of the IAS officer.
Though Majhi was set free yesterday, the abductors put forward new demands for the release of the 2005 batch IAS officer.
They have demanded immediate release of five senior Maoist leaders apart from Ganti Prasadam, who was granted bail by Orissa High Court.
Prasadam was taken to Koraput this morning for release by the SDJM there, but the process is likely to take more time.
“We are making all efforts … talks were held with the three interlocutors to secure safe and early release of the collector from the Maoists,” Chief Secretary, B K Patnaik told reporters, as the deadline for Krishna’s release neared.
Voicing optimism about Krishna’s release, the home secretary said “we hope the appeal made by the mediators must have reached the abductors by now. We are hopeful of some positive development soon.”
Meanwhile, social activist Swami Agnivesh, whose participation in the process was sought by the Maoists, said that it would not not be possible for him to reach Malkangiri within a short time.
He appealed to the abductors to set free the collector without further delay.