Maoists set April 5 deadline for BJD MLA’s release

Maoists guerrillas on Tuesday set April 5 deadline for the Odisha government to concede to their demands to secure release of abducted BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka.

Bhubaneswar: The Odisha Government on Tuesday appealed to BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka`s abductors to extend their
April 5 deadline and invited the chief of a Maoist-backed
outfit for negotiation, even as the rebels rejected the offer.

Inviting Nachika Linga, rebel-backed Chasi Mulia Adivasi
Sangh (CMAS) president, to come forward for talks on the
release of Hikaka, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said, "Our
government is prepared to hold discussions on the release of
certain CMAS members as per their demands."

Indicating that the government was ready to free some
rebels in exchange of the 37-year-old Laxmipur MLA, Patnaik
said, "I have often requested Maoists to begin negotiations
urgently for the release of the MLA."

However, the state government received a message from the
rebels that they are not prepared to negotiate, Patnaik said
in a statement in the state assembly.

Though Linga, who has been on the run since 2009, had
showed willingness to join talks on certain conditions, the
Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee of CPI (Maoist)
(AOBSZC) in an audio message to the media today rejected
proposal for talks and set April 5 as the deadline.

Patnaik`s statement came hours after AOBSZC asked the
Odisha government to fulfil its demands including release of
jailed rebels latest by April 5.

A few hours later, a letter purportedly written by Hikaka
addressed to chief minister was released to media saying he
was safe and pleading that tribals lodged in jails on charge
of being Maoists be freed at the earliest so that he could be
released unharmed.
"Since I am a tribal, steps for the safety of my life are
not being considered seriously," the letter bearing Hikaka`s
name said, adding that if quick steps are not taken for his
release he would be unable to work for development of his
area. "If necessary, I will be forced to resign," it said.

The development followed another threat from the
Secretary of Odisha State Organising Committee of CPI(Maoist),
Sabyasachi Panda whose outfit claimed to have abducted Italian
national Paolo Basusco, that the hostage might be harmed if
any action was launched.

"We may take the extreme step if the government launches
an offensive to release the hostage," he said.

"The government is adopting a dilly-dallying approach
to our demands and also planning an operation to free the
hostage. The government will be responsible if something wrong
happens to the Italian," Panda said in an audio tape released
to the media earlier.

Besides his wife, Subhasree, Panda sought release of
Maoists Arati Majhi, Kamala Kanta Sethi, Jonesh Pradhan,
Sujatha, Suka Nachika and Gananath Patra.

On Panda`s demands, the chief minister said a fresh round
of discussion had begun yesterday evening with two mediators -
B D Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty. As one of them was away from
Bhubaneswar today, talks for the release of Bosusco would be
resumed tomorrow, he said.

Earlier on the day, the Chief Minister held an emergency
meeting with top officials to assess the situation.
Sabyasachi Panda`s wife Subhasree also appealed to the
ultras not to harm the hostage. "I appeal to the Maoists not
to harm the hostage," she told reporters while being produced
at a court in Rayagada district.

"Please do not harm the MLA. He hails from a tribal
family and works for the welfare of tribals," Subhasree said,
adding like Maoists, Hikaka was also working for tribals.

The hostage crisis also figured in the Assembly with
Congress chief whip Prasad Harichandan voicing concern over
fate of the BJD MLA and steps being taken for his release.

Hikaka was abducted by Maoists in Koraput district on
March 24, while Italians Paolo Bosusco (54) and Claudio
Colangelo (61) were taken hostage on March 14 during trekking
in tribal-dominated Kandhamal district.

The Maoists had on March 25 released Colangelo as a
"goodwill gesture".