17 Feb : In perhaps the first -ever abduction of an IAS officer by Maoists, Malkangiri district collector R V Krishna was kidnapped after which Orissa govt conceded one of the two demands by Naxals by halting combing operations across the state.
Union Home Minister P Chidambaram spoke to Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on phone and asked him to make all efforts for safe return of the 2005 batch IAS officer who was abducted on Wednesday evening by a group of 50 Maoists, officials said. The Naxalites have set a two-day deadline for meeting their demands.
In a bid to facilitate the safe release of the two men, Orissa government halted combing operations across the state.
“Instructions have been issued to stop combing operations across the state, including in Malkangiri from where the district collector and a junior engineer were abducted last evening,” state Home Secretary U N Behera said in Bhubaneswar on Thursday.
The government, he said, was hopeful that the abductors would release the two men by Friday as one of their major demands have been fulfilled.
“We think that there is no need to appeal for an extension of the deadline.”
Officials in Bhubaneswar said that the state government has contacted Naxal sympathiser and balladeer Varavara Rao and social activist Swami Agnivesh for help to get the collector freed.
The incident took place when Krishna was on a visit to the remote Chitrakonda area, a Maoist stronghold about 85 km from Malkangiri, to attend a camp for local development, police said. It is perhaps the first-ever abduction of an IAS officer in Orissa by the Naxalites.
The Orissa Chief Minister reviewed the situation with state Chief Secretary B K Patnaik, Home Secretary U N Behera and other top officials and said that the government was evaluating all options and monitoring the case.
“I appeal for early release of the young and energetic officer, who is known for his hard work among the poor and the tribals,” the Chief Minister told reporters on Thursday.
In Delhi, Home Secretary G K Pillai said, “I think it will take some time (for the release) because the area is quite cut-off but back channel efforts are underway… we are quite confident of getting him back.”
He said, “In the limited area if the operation is to be stopped or not, the state government is fully competent to take a view. It has been done in Chhattisgarh a few days ago where for 48 hours the operation was suspended to enable the release of abducted policemen.”
Krishna was taken hostage after he went from a public interaction camp held at Badapada bordering Andhra Pradesh to inspect a culvert on a road nearby on a motorcycle along with two junior engineers and another person, Chitrakonda Tehsildar D Gopal Krishnan said.
While the collector and a junior engineer were held hostage, two others reached Badapada late Wednesday night with a letter and handed it over to senior officials, he said.
Strongly condemning the abduction, Pillai said, “I don’t think there is need for any operation for his release. I am sure that the local support that he has and the state government will be able to negotiate and get his release.
“What the Maoists are doing is anti-national. That (operation) will remain. There is no question of stopping the operations (in other areas),” he said.