Odisha hostage crisis: Maoists refuse to free BJD MLA

Maoists holding BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka refused to free him unless 30 rebels, including one accused of killing 55 policemen, were released.

Bhubaneswar: Maoists holding BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka on Wednesday refused to free him unless 30 rebels, including
one accused of killing 55 policemen, were released, while
another group which abducted Italian Paolo Bosusco said it was
awaiting the agreement struck with the government.

After a day`s silence, the Maoist Andhra Odisha Border
Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) in a letter to the media said
that Hikaka would not be released unless 30 ultras, including
Chenda Bhusanam alias Ghasi involved in 41 major incidents of
violence, were freed.

The three-page letter in Telugu warned that the 37-year-
old tribal legislator would be produced before a `praja court`
to decide his fate if the state government delayed further in
releasing the 30 ultras.

Stating that Koraput MP Jayram Pangi, Koraput MLA
Raghuram Podal and Jeypore MLA Rabi Narayan Nanda, all
belonging to the ruling BJD were on its hit list, the group
claimed that only three of those the government was offering
for release were Maoists and rest belonged to its front
organisation, Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha.

The letter arrived a day after the deadline set by the
two groups holding the MLA and Italian hostage, ended

Home Secretary U N Behera, however, maintained that the
government was unaware of the fresh letter from the AOBSZC.

Behera pointed out that the government had on April 5
agreed to facilitate release of 23 people, including 15 from
the CMAS.

"Some bail petitions on behalf of these persons are
learnt to have been filed in the courts concerned and that
process is on," he said.

On the demand for release of more prisoners, Behera said
the matter was being examined and police and legal opinion had
been sought.

Regarding the Italian, he said from a new audio message
from the Secretary of the Odisha State Organising Committee,
Sabyasachi Panda, it appeared that he was waiting for copy of
the joint statement signed by government representatives and
mediators nominated by him.

"Since the issues raised by him in his pamphlet have been
addressed in the chief minister`s statements in Assembly and
the joint statement of government representatives and two
mediators, he should release Bosusco immediately," the Home
Secretary said.

"The mediators nominated by the Maoists holding Bosusco
hostage have also conveyed this message to Sabyasachi Panda,"
Behera said.

He said that in view of these developments, the AOBSZC
and Panda were requested to release Hikaka and Bosusco
immediately and in good health.

Meanwhile, the family members of 15 CMAS activists whose
release the state government has decided to facilitate were
waiting for them to emerge from jail at Balipeta in Maoist-hit
Narayanpatna area of Koraput district since yesterday.

The AOBSZC had demanded that the hostage-prisoner swap
take place at Balipeta yesterday.

Earlier in the day, Panda said in an audio message that
though the contents of the joint statement for Bosusco`s
release were known the document was yet to be received.

Panda`s message came a day after the release of his wife
Subhashree Das alias Mili Panda from jail following her
acquittal by a court.

Panda had also condemned the police opposing the release
of hardcore Maoists.

The Odisha Police Association and the Havildar and
Constable Mahasangh had said they would boycott anti-Maoist
operations if hardcore Naxals were freed.

Bosusco, a Puri-based Italian tour operator was kidnapped
along with another Italian Claudio Colangelo by Maoists while
trekking in Kandhamal district on March 14.

Colangelo was released on March 25 as a "goodwill
gesture" by the Maoists.

Hikaka was taken hostage in Koraput district on March 24
when he was returning home to Laxmipur.


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