Uncertainty prevailed over the fates of Maoist hostages — Italian citizen Paolo Basusco and MLA Jhina Hikaka — as the deadline for their release expired on Tuesday.
But Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda's wife Subhashree was acquitted by a fast-track court before she could be released by the state government. Her name was on the list of 27 people whose release had been demanded by the Maoists.
Subhashree was under trial in a case related to an encounter between Maoists and police in 2003 in Rayagada district. The court released her due to lack of evidence. "The government had nothing to do with my release," Shubhasree later said. "I was acquitted by court. This is my victory."
Panda, secretary of Odisha State Organising Committee (OSOC) of the CPI (Maoist), meanwhile, sent another audiotape to the media, claiming he was yet to receive a copy of the agreement drawn up by the mediators."I have not received any information on the release of seven people and the government's position on our 13-point demand," he said in the audiotape.
The other Maoist group -- Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) of the CPI (Maoist) – which abducted Hikaka is, however, maintaining a silence.
Police officers said Maoists have resorted to delaying tactics now.
"Panda's wife was acquitted today, but he probably wants to make sure she is not re-arrested. There are two other warrants against her," an officer said on condition of anonymity.
Before Panda's audiotape surfaced, home secretary UN Behera said the state government had agreed to facilitate the release of 27 detainees.
The government, he said, was examining the legal aspects of AOBSZC's Monday's demand for the release of five more people. "As the chief minister stated on the very first day, whatever action is taken will be within the framework of law," he said.
Paolo and fellow Italian Claudio Colangelo were abducted on March 14 by the Panda-led OSOC in Kandhamal. On March 25, Panda had released Colangelo as a "goodwill gesture".