Maoist rebels have freed Paolo Bosusco, an Italian tour guide, who was abducted together with Claudio Colangelo, an Italian tourist, on March 14 while on a trek in the eastern Indian state of Orissa.
Bosusco, 54, runs an adventure tourism bureau in the coastal town of Puri in Orissa state. He has been living in India for the past 12 years. Colangelo was released by Maoists after 11 days but Bosusco remained in captivity until Thursday, April 12. The two were the first foreign nationals to be kidnapped by Maoists, who have mainly targeted Indianpoliticians and government officials in the past.
The Maoists named two mediators to conduct the negotiations on their behalf with the state government. The government had agreed to the Maoists' 13-point charter of demands five days prior to the release, but the signed document had to be sent to the chief of the Maoist group in the jungles of Kandhamal first.
In the document, the Orissa state government agreed to release a certain number of jailed rebels as demanded by the Maoists. These included Subhasree Panda, the wife of Sabyasache Panda, the chief of the Maoist group, which refers to itself as the Orissa State Organizing Committee, the Maoist group that had abducted the Italians.
Dandapani Mohanty, one of the two mediators, went to the Maoists' camp in the jungles at the border of the Kandhamal and Ganjam districts to pick up Bosusco. Mohanty was accompanied by Purusottam Thakur, a television journalist from Bhubaneswar, the state capital, and Thakur's cameraman.
Talking to DW, Thakur described how they arrived at the camp, talked to Sabaysachi Panda and were later led to Bosusco, who was sleeping along with the rest of the Maoist cadre. It must have been around 10 at night on Wednesday, Thakur said. Later Bosusco talked to them about his experience as a hostage. The team left the Maoist's camp in the morning to drive the 200 kilometers to Bhubaneswar, where they handed Bosusco over to government officials at a government rest house.
Bosusco said afterwards that he had been treated well by the rebels but had lost weight - nearly 10 kilograms - because of the food in the jungle. He still loved Orissa and its people, Bosusco said, though he was planning to return to Italy.
A question of strategy
The fate of another hostage, Jhina Hikaka, a member of the Orissa legislative assembly and of the ruling Biju Janata Dal Party, remains uncertain. HIkaka was abducted at around the same time as the two Italians by another Maoist group, the Orissa Border Special Zone Committee, which has also demanded the release of jailed comrades, but without naming a mediator.
India's External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna welcomed the release of the second Italian hostage with the words: "It is a very good development for enhancing the image of India as a safe and peaceful country."
Shubhranshu Choudhary, a freelance journalist based in Delhi and writing a book on the Maoist movement in India, is less sure "that this is going to be a path-breaking or a watershed moment in the Maoist movement. Maoists are political people and they are fighters and they work according to their strategies. And they keep changing their strategies. So if it's a new strategy they are using: will this be continuing? Will this be a one-off thing? It is too early to say."
The situation in the insurgency-affected areas has become worse since 2006, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called the Maoist insurgency India's biggest internal security threat. "We, our policies, our security forces," Choudhary told DW, "they are making a huge number of people's lives so miserable that they need to go towards the Maoists."
"In India the economic policy, or industrial policy, or whatever you call it, the trickle-down policy - is not working for the majority of the people," Choudhary added.
Author: Arun Chowdhury
Editor: Sarah Berning