The Maoists on Thursday released Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MLA Jhina Hikaka. He was released on the 34th day of his captivity. Emerging from his captivity, the Odisha MLA said he was not tortured by the Maoists.
Hikaka reached Balipeta village in Narayanpatna block in Koraput district, more than 600 km southwest of Bhubaneswar, at 10.30 am along with a crowd of villagers. His wife Kaushalya Hikaka and lawyer NR Patnaik, who reached Balipeta half an hour before, received him.
"I am thankful to the tribals and the media for their support. I was very anxious to see him," a relieved and delighted Kaushalya said immediately after meeting her husband.
A medical team, which was present at Balipeta, would examine the 37-year-old, first-time legislator.
The release was officially confirmed in Bhubaneswar by Home Secretary U N Behera who said, "The MLA has been freed by the Maoists."
According to the Maoist Andhra-Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) which had held him captive and produced him before a 'praja' court, Hikaka had given a written undertaking that he would resign from the state Assembly and from the BJD and work for the people.
Looking cheerful and smiling after his gruelling ordeal, Hikaka said, "I am free now. I am in good health. "I was treated quite well and not tortured, " he said shaking hands with the lawyer.
He said he did not have an idea where he was held by the Maoists, who moved him from place to place all through his captivity.
On Wednesday, speaking on behalf of the Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee of the CPI (Maoist), rebel leader Aruna said in an audiotape that Hikaka would be handed over to his wife Kaushalya Majhi and Patnaik, lawyer for leftist tribal outfit Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha, at Balipeta village in Koraput district at 10 am on Thursday.
She warned the government not to send any police and intelligence people along with them.
"The praja court (people's court) had taken a decision to release Hikaka as he had accepted his mistakes and assured to resign from the Odisha assembly. He admitted in the court that he had failed to do anything for the tribal people after joining BJD and being MLA," Aruna said.
The rebel leader said during his captivity of more than one month, Hikaka moved around interior villages, saw the plight of the tribals with his own eyes and admitted that the state government had failed to solve their problems. He reportedly told the "court" that after his release, he would fight for the rights of the tribals.
Maoists had abducted the MLA from Laxmipur from Koraput-Laxmipur road on March 24. For his release, they set a 7-point demand including the release of political prisoners, members of CMAS and "innocent" tribals from jail; implementation of agreement for the release of the then Malkangiri collector R Vineel Krishna, who was abducted in February 2011; and halt to anti-naxal operations.
The state government has agreed to facilitate release 25 persons including 17 CAMS members. Besides, it has decided to withdraw prosecution against 13 of them.
But the rebels wanted the government to free 29 persons. The rebels also wanted the government to withdraw cases against all of them.
As the stalemate continued for several days, on April 21, the rebels hardened their stand by making a fresh demand for release of all CMAS members in Koraput jail. There are about 45 CMAS members in Koraput jail, where police has issued warrant against 1000 others, including the outfit's chief Nachika Linga.
Meanwhile, talks for the release of Sukma Collector Alex Paul Menon are expected to begin today. Maoist interlocutor B D Sharma and Professor Hargopal will reach Raipur today to start talks for Menon's release.
District Collector of Sukma Alex Menon was abducted by the Maoists on Saturday from a village where he had gone to attend the Gram Suraj Abhiyaan.
(with PTI input)