What led to BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka's release - behind-the-scenes operations, hushed deals or just the government succumbing to Maoist pressure? Sources say none.
While the government stood its ground by not agreeing to release more than 25 people whose names it had announced, the Maoists scored a political point by triggering a debate about tribal rights and alienation, they said.
Sources said even the Maoists knew the government would not bend any more. "The Maoists have become media-savvy; they know how to garner public sympathy for their cause," a police officer said.
The effect was visible on local news channels, where panelists across party lines agreed more needed to be done for tribals.
Talking to HT, senior BJD leader Damodar Rout, who debated the matter on a channel, said: "The problems of the tribals cannot be ignored any further. Efforts should be made to bridge the gap between the government and the tribals."
After Hikaka's abduction on March 24, the state tried to open back channels through BJD leaders but without much success. It then agreed to facilitate the release the 25 people and withdraw prosecution against 13 of them.
"These cases were scanned as even the government felt many of them were fabricated. But after a point the government did not budge despite Maoist pressure," an official source said on anonymity.
When the stalemate continued, the Maoists responded by threatening to decide Hikaka's fate in a people's court.