Bhubaneswar: Maoists holding BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka as hostage for over a month released him on Thursday, a day after a `praja` (people`s) court decided to free him.
The MLA, who was kidnapped on March 24, was handed over to his wife Kaushalya and Koraput-based lawyer Nihar Patnaik somewhere in Balipeta near Narayanpatna in Odisha’s Koraput district.
"I am thankful to the tribals and the media for their support. I was very anxious to see him," a relieved and delighted Kaushalya said immediately after meeting her husband.
Looking cheerful and smiling after his gruelling ordeal, Hikaka said, "I am free now. I am in good health.
"I was treated quite well and not tortured," he said shaking hands with the lawyer.
He said he did not have an idea where he was held by the Maoists, who moved him from place to place all through his captivity.
The praja court had set a condition for Hikaka’s release and made him sign an undertaking that he would resign from the state Assembly after his release.
"Hikaka will put in his papers after his release and has given a written undertaking to this effect in the `praja` court. He is all right and in good health," an audio message released to the media on Wednesday by the Maoist Andhra-Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) said.
The MLA reportedly told the `praja` court held on April 23 and 24 that he would resign as MLA and also snap all ties with BJD and live as an ordinary citizen and work for the people.
Hikaka, according to the message, alleged that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik did not take any active steps for his release because he was a tribal.
The message in Odia language said that people claimed that Hikaka as the local MLA had failed to stop `anti-people` measures of the government, which was `admitted` by him.
It said that the `praja` court also discussed `Operation Greenhunt`, police operations and alleged excesses and atrocities against innocent people.
The Maoists had earlier informed their Koraput-based lawyer Nihar Patnaik, who fights cases for rebels, and their front organisatiom Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS), about the `praja` court`s decision.
Though the Maoists had initially placed a tough condition that 29 freed rebels be produced at Balipeta along with MLA`s wife and the lawyer for hostage-prisoner exchange, they softened their stand later.
The Chief Minister and some BJD leaders including Koraput MP Jairam Pangi had appealed for Hikaka`s release.
Before Hikaka`s abduction, another Maoist group, Odisha Stage Organising Committee had kidnapped two Italian nationals Claudio Colangelo and Paolo Bosusco on March 14 in Kandhamal district.
While Colangelo was released on March 25, Bosusco was freed on April 12.