The Centre will next week send nine Maoist-affected states a list of dos and don’ts in a hostage situation as part of consultations for a uniform hostage policy.
“I have asked officials to raise the matter with state governments,” P. Chidambaram told the Rajya Sabha today. The home minister was replying to a question by BJP’s Prakash Javadekar on Maoist abductions and how the government planned to negotiate with them.
A list of standard operating procedures (SOPs) drawn up by the home ministry will be despatched early next week to Bengal, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Odisha, Andhra, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
India has SOPs for a hijack scenario but none for abductions in general or by Maoists. Next week’s SOPs will include detailed directions on appointment of mediators, method of negotiation and the role of different agencies during a hostage crisis.
That Chhattisgarh was able to tackle the Alex Paul Menon abduction better than Odisha did the Italian tourists/BJD MLA kidnap crisis is not lost on the home ministry. Negotiation skills will, therefore, be integral to the SOPs and emphasis would be laid on trained and experienced mediators, sources said.
“Nowhere in the world is there a policy of no release, but the objective should be not to release jailed cadres,” the sources said, asked if Maoists would be freed through negotiations.
Chidambaram said since the Maoist demand was generally for release of cadres or their relatives, only states would be empowered to negotiate with them. No major Maoist leader has been released doing recent abductions.
The minister said the recent abductions of an IAS officer, an MLA and foreign tourists were a pointer to the changing nature of Maoist insurgency. Earlier, the targets were mainly police informers, constables and such personnel.
In March, the Maoists abducted Italians Paolo Bosusco and Claudio Colangelo from Kandhamal and MLA Jhina Hikaka from Laxmipur in Koraput district, both in Odisha. Last month, Sukma collector Menon was abducted from Chhattisgarh, the second IAS officer to be abducted after Vineel Krishna in February last year.
Chidambaram said the abduction of civil administration officials was possibly an attempt to stall development but that would not stop the government from combating Maoists “in a holistic manner”.