MLA abduction: Centre offers help to Odisha

Hours after an MLA was abducted by Maoists in Odisha, the Centre has offered assistance to the state government in tracing the legislator.

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi/Bhubaneswar: Hours after an MLA was abducted by Maoists in Odisha, the Centre has offered assistance to the state government in tracing the legislator.

Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, speaking to Zee News, said the Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik spoke to him to apprise of the situation.

Chidambaram said he offered all possible assistance to the state CM, while adding Patnaik has not asked for any help so far.

Union Home Secretary RK Singh has also spoken to the Orissa Chief Secretary.

Jhina Hikaka, a tribal BJD legislator from Laxmipur, was abducted in Koraput district in the early hours of Saturday.

Hikaka was returning home from Koraput when more than 50 armed rebels stopped his vehicle near Toyaput where the road had been dug up and a truck had blocked the way, police said.

The MLA’s abduction has added to the woes of the ruling BJD government which is trying to resolve the 10-day-old Italian hostage crisis.

CM Patnaik has rushed state Revenue and Disaster Management Minister SN Patro and ST and SC Development Minister Lal Bihari Himirika to the area.

While the personal security officer (PSO) and driver of the MLA were allowed to leave by the ultras who snatched away
their mobile phones, Hikaka was taken away into the nearby
forest, about 40 km from here at gunpoint, Superintendent of Police Avinash Kumar said.

The incident happened hours after Patnaik appealed to the
rebels to desist from violence.

Amidst uproar by opposition members protesting the
abduction in the state Assembly, Patnaik, who reviewed the
situation at a meeting with top officials, said in a statement
in the House that "at approximately 1.00 am this morning, MLA
from Laxmipur Jhina Hikaka was abducted near Toyaput on
Koraput-Laxmipur road."

While no group has yet claimed responsibility for the
kidnapping, it is suspected to have been done by Maoists, he
said, adding senior police officials have rushed to the spot.

"While I spoke to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram
about the abduction of the MLA, the Chief Secretary spoke to
the Union Home Secretary," Patnaik told reporters.

The abducted MLA`s wife, Kaushalya has appealed to the
kidnappers to release her husband unharmed, saying he had been
working for the welfare of tribals.

On the Italian hostage crisis, the Chief Minister said
the negotiations would continue to resolve the issue.

"However, we will be urgently handling the abduction of
the MLA that took place this morning," he said.

The issue rocked the state Assembly which plunged into
turmoil as opposition Congress and BJP members trooped into
the well and shouted slogans against the government slamming
it for the deteriorating law and order.

The House was adjourned till 12:30 amidst pandemonium
with the opposition members trying to climb the Speaker`s
podium and voicing concern over safety of elected

The PSO and driver Urgrasen, who had informed the
Laxmipur police station about the incident, said a large
number of armed rebels had surrounded the vehicle after
stopping it.

"They took away my mobile phone and that of the PSO
before asking us to leave," he said, adding "they also asked
us to tell people that Maoists had abducted the MLA."

In protest against Hikaka`s abduction, local residents in
the area staged a demonstration and blocked the
Koraput-Laxmipur road demanding his immediate release.

The abduction came 10 days after the Maoists took two
Italians hostage from Kandhamal district on March 14 and talks
were in progress between rebel-nominated negotiators and
government representatives to resolve the crisis.

Maoist negotiators engaged to end the Italian hostage
crisis - B D Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty - have appealed to
the Maoists to release the legislator without delay.

Meanwhile, the Maoists have given a call for `Bharat
Bandh` demanding among other things a halt to green hunt
operations against them and release of a large number of
people booked on charge of being rebels.

Posters listing these demands and seeking support for
the shut-down were also found at the site of abduction of the
legislator, police said.

(With PTI inputs)