Odisha govt agrees to Maoist demands to free MLA

Odisha govt announced that it was agreeable to withdraw cases against 13 prisoners after expiry of the deadline set by the ultras.

Bhubaneswar: Bowing to demand by Maoists that it withdraw cases against 13 prisoners for the freedom of BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka, the Odisha government today announced that it was agreeable to do so after expiry of the deadline set by the ultras at 5:00 pm.

"It has been decided to take steps for withdrawal of prosecution against 13 persons following the due process of law," Home Secretary U N Behera told reporters shortly afterwards.

The thirteen include five Maoists.
Earlier after expiry of the ultimatum, in a fresh message to the media, a leader of CPI (Maoist) Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) said it had no faith in the state government and the fate of the 37-year-old tribal MLA from Laxmipur would be decided by a people`s court.

The message said the deadline had been extended four times in the past and there would be no further extension.

A Koraput-based lawyer Nihar Ranjan Patnaik, who fights cases of Maoists and their frontal organisation, said the praja court was likely to be held tomorrow and time and venue would be decided later.

The Maoists had demanded that cases of those to be released should be withdrawn and had declined to seek bail.
The ultras had dropped the name of Chenda Bhusanam alias Ghasi, accused in the killing of 55 policemen, from the list of rebels sought to be freed in exchange for the legislator who was kidnapped on March 24 from Koraput district.

They wanted the lawyer and the MLA`s wife Kaushalya to accompany the freed rebels to Balipeta to Narayanpatna area in Koraput district for a hostage-prisoner exchange.

"When the government has proactively taken steps as a
goodwill gesture to declare withdrawal of prosecution against the 13 persons, I think they should be satisfied and should take appropriate steps to free the MLA," Behera said stating that the the government did not receive the audio message.

Seven members of the Maoist-backed Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS), had applied for bail with four being granted it, the home secretary said with the bail of the remaining to be filed soon.

Hikaka had yesterday spoken to Chief Secretary B K Patnaik and Koraput district Collector Sachin Ramachandra Jadav and informed them that he was in good health.
He had also spoken over telephone with BJD MP from Koraput, Jayaram Pangi.

The MLA`s wife made a fresh appeal to the Maoists to free Hikaka without harming him. Appeals were also made by the government.

Meanwhile, a retired army officer approached the Supreme Court during the day to restrain the Odisha government from meeting the demand of Maoists for releasing jailed rebels.

Major General (retd) Gangurdep Bakshi, a counter-terrorism operations expert, pleaded with the apex court that the state government should be restrained from releasing the Maoists captured by the security forces, who had risked their lives to nab them.

Bakshi submitted that his petition be given urgent hearing as the deadline set by the Maoists would end today. The matter will come up tomorrow.



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