India Maoists set new conditions for magistrate release

Image caption,
Mr Krishna was on his way to inspect a government project

Maoist rebels in India's state of Orissa have set fresh conditions for the release of a magistrate they abducted earlier this month.

The rebels say they will release R Vineel Krishna only after five Maoists the government has agreed to release from prison are handed over to them.

An engineer kidnapped along with Mr Krishna was freed on Wednesday. Pabitra Majhi is reported to be in good health.

He told doctors examining him that Mr Krishna was also in good health.

The two were seized on 16 February while on their way back after inspecting a government project in the remote Chitrakonda area of Malkangiri district.

On Tuesday, the rebels said they would release the officials within "48 hours".

Intense negotiations

The new demand was contained in a letter sent by Maoists through Mr Majhi.

The letter, written in Telugu, has also asked for social activist Swami Agnivesh to be involved in the fresh round of negotiations.

Mr Majhi was released after hours of intense negotiations between senior state government officials and three mediators nominated by the Maoists.

The engineer was driven by motorbike from the place of his captivity deep inside the forests of Chitrakonda to a nearby town.

On Wednesday, the mediators read out an appeal on BBC Hindi radio asking the Maoists to release Mr Krishna by Thursday evening as agreed by the two sides on Tuesday.

For the rebels, who live in the deeply forested areas of southern Orissa, radio is the only way to stay in touch with the world.

The BBC is a particular Maoist favourite for what they call its "fair and objective" reporting.

Correspondents say the state government remains concerned that there is still no word on the release of Mr Krishna.

Mr Krishna, 30, is a graduate from the prestigious Indian Institute of Technology and joined the civil service in 2005. He was appointed to head Malkangiri district 16 months ago.

Meanwhile, a court in the state granted bail to top Maoist leader Ganti Prasadam on Wednesday.

Mr Prasadam's release was one of the major demands of the Maoists.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the Maoist insurgency as India's biggest internal security challenge.

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