- - Monday, March 19, 2012

BHUBANESWAR, IndiaMaoist rebels in eastern India on Monday issued a list of demands for securing the release of two Italian tourists whom the rebels had kidnapped last week.

The demands include the release of at least 14 Maoists, including several political prisoners and three senior leaders, from jails and prisons around the region, according to a copy of the list obtained by The Washington Times.

The rebels said they would not release their hostages until their demands are met. They kidnapped the Italian tourists, identified as Clandio Colangilo and Boscusco Polo, in the eastern state of Odisha on Wednesday.

Naveen Patnaik, chief minister of Odisha, said his government received the list from a leader of the Odisha State Organizing Committee of Communist Party of India (Maoist) who identified himself as “Sunil.”

“This [list] is being examined by the state government,” Mr. Patnaik said Monday.

The chief minister said the government will seek to discuss the demands with the Maoists after the rebels select their representative. “When such a communication is received, further steps will be taken,” he said.

The Odisha government and India’s Home Ministry have been scurrying to free the hostages since news broke about their abduction on Sunday. The country’s External Affairs Ministry has been assuring Italian officials about rescue efforts.

“I once again make a strong appeal on humane grounds … to release the two Italian nationals immediately and to see they are unharmed,” Mr. Patnaik said in an appeal to the kidnappers.

Maoist rebels in this mineral-rich region of India have long fought to overthrow the government, often launching deadly attacks against police and political figures in ongoing guerrilla warfare in largely tribal areas in the region.

In the eastern state of Jharkhand, rebels killed 13 police officers in a land-mine attack in January, and 10 police officers and an 8-year-old boy in a similar attack in December.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called the Maoists the country’s biggest internal threat.

In their list of demands, the rebels call for the state government to halt tourism in tribal areas, saying that tourists often treat tribal people as commodities and take objectionable photographs of tribal women.

The hostage identified as Boscusco Polo reportedly owns a travel company that has provided tours of tribal areas for Italian travelers for about 19 years. His tourism business operates at the seaside Hindu temple town of Puri in Odisha.

The rebels also demand the end of police operations against them. “Halt operation green hunt and withdraw all police camps immediately, creating a conducive ambience for peace talks,” they said.

They also call for the end of a police crackdown on anti-land acquisition activists in Odisha, which is experiencing rapid industrialization via mining and steel-making projects.



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