Even as the Odisha government and the Maoist-backed negotiators are making some progress in their talks for the release of two Italian hostages, the red brigade on Saturday delivered a blow to the discussion process by allegedly abducting a ruling party MLA from Koraput district in Odisha.
A tribal MLA of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha was abducted by Maoists in Koraput district in the early hours on Saturday, Koraput Superintendent of Police Avinash Kumar said.
Jhina Hikaka (37) was abducted by more than a hundred armed cadres of Communist Party of India (Maoist) from Tayaput forest areas, about 600 km southwest of Bhubaneswar, when he was returning to Laxmipur at about 3 am from Semiliguda after attending some party works, police said.
While the personal security officer (PSO) and driver of the MLA were allowed to leave, Hikaka was taken away into the nearby forest, about 40 km from here by the ultras at gunpoint, the Koraput Superintendent of Police said.
The PSO and driver informed the Laxmipur police station about the incident, Kumar said, adding steps have been initiated to ascertain the whereabouts of the legislator.
Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik who held a meeting of top police and administrative officials said his government is urgently handling the latest kidnapping.
"The suspected Maosists have kidnapped BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka. I have sent two ministers to secure MLA's release," said Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik.
"This is a worrisome development(on abduction of Orissa MLA). Negotiations were on to get the release of Italians," said Jay Panda.
The incident happened on a day the Communist Party of India (Maoist) has called shutdown in India protesting against anti-naxal operations and fake cases against people by the police and security forces.
“The ultras left some leaflets which said all the 13 demands for Italian hostages’ release should be fulfilled,” said Laxmipur police inspector in charge Suryamani Pradhan.
The area where Hikaka was abducted borders Parbatipuram in Andhra Pradesh. The Koraput-Srikakulam divisional committee of the CPI (Maoist) is alleged to be behind the abduction of Hikaka.
The abduction of Hikaka has delivered a blow to the ongoing negotiation process for the release of two Italian nationals, Basusco Paolo (55) and Claudio Colangelo (60), who were abducted by Maoists from Kandhamal district, about 300 km southwest of Bhubaneswar, on March 14. The Italians are in Maoists' captivity for the last 11 days.
It is not yet known if the latest kidnapping will jeopardize the talk process. The rebels have committed the latest crime even if they had declared unilateral ceasefire before the start of negotiation.
The rebels had earlier shot dead a police sub inspector in the district of Malkangiri, a Maoists strong hold, late Thursday even as the talks were on.
Uproar in assembly
The Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members on Saturday created an uproar in Odisha assembly over the abduction of a tribal member by Maoists.
The members shouted slogans against the government and trooped towards the speaker as soon as the question hour started.
They were noisy even when chief minister Naveen Patnaik tried to read out a statement.
Patnaik said state police officials had been sent to the area. He added that two senior ministers would also go to the region to assess the situation.
(With agency inputs)