Maoists, who have held Biju Janata Dal MLA Jhina Hikaka (37) as hostage since March 24, on Sunday extended their deadline till April 18 for the government to release 29 prisoners in exchange for Hikaka.
The previous deadline was April 10, but there had been no communication from the red brigade since then.
Speaking on behalf of Jagabandhu, spokesperson, Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee of the CPI (Maoist), rebel leader Aruna said in an audiotape through media that Hikaka’s wife should come to Balipeta in Narayanpatna in Koraput district on April 18 along with 29 prisoners and lawyer NR Patnaik and take back her husband.
No police or intelligence people should come along, the rebel leader warned.The rebels earlier had demanded release of 30 prisoners including Chenda Bhushanam alias Ghasi who is alleged to be involved in the killing of 55 policemen in Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. But they discounted Ghasi from their list and asked for release of others who they claimed were mostly members of leftist tribal organisation Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha and innocent people.
The Odisha government, which had been reeling under twin hostage crisis of Hikaka and Italian citizen Paolo Bosusco, was relieved on Thursday when the Maoist released the latter. Following Bosusco’s release, the state government has stepped up the efforts to release Hikaka.
On Friday, chief minister Naveen Patnaik flew down to Koraput from where Hikaka was abducted on March 24. He held a high level meeting with senior administrative and police officials to discuss the crisis.
The government on its part has agreed to facilitate release of 23 detainees, including 15 members of leftist tribal organisation Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (including one listed in the list for Bosusco’s release) and asked the Maoists to apply for bail in courts. However, the Maoists and CAMS have been demanding withdrawal of cases against the detainees.