Maoists who have kept Biju Janata Dal MLA Jhina Hikaka hostage since March 24 on Tuesday asked the Odisha government to stop delaying tactics and take concrete steps to release 29 prisoners as demanded by them in exchange for the legislator.
Speaking on behalf of the Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee of the CPI (Maoist), rebel leader Aruna said in an audiotape that the government should tell specifically through media what steps it had taken regarding the release of the prisoners. “If we get specific assurance from the government by 5pm today, Hikaka will be released at 5pm on Wednesday. Otherwise, the government will be responsible if anything happens to Hikaka,” Aruna said in the audiotape.
The rebel leader added that the government should take the responsibility of processing bail applications instead of asking the prisoners to move their own.
The rebels earlier had demanded the 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 issuing an audiotape on Sunday they struck Ghasi off their list and asked for release of the rest, who, they said, were mostly members of the leftist tribal organisation Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha or just apolitical people. They also extended their deadline till April 18 for the government to release 29 prisoners in exchange of he legislator.
The government on its part has agreed to facilitate the release of 23 detainees including 15 members of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (including one on the list for Italian Bosusco Paolo’s release) and asked the Maoists to apply for bail in courts.
Following the freeing of the two abducted Italians, the state government has stepped up efforts to get Hikaka freed.
On Friday, chief minister Naveen Patnaik flew to Koraput, from where Hikaka had been abducted. He held a high level meeting with senior officials on this.