The Jharkhand government on Thursday suffered a major setback in its effort to free its official kidnapped by Maoists when the rebels made fresh demands that villagers branded Maoists be released from jails and a civil defence group chief be arrested immediately.
The Maoists had earlier put through the wife of the abducted block development officer Prashant Layak their demand for release of their three comrades from a jail, and then insisted on release of 11 others.
While the government late on Wednesday night agreed to move the court to "re-investigate" the cases of the 14 Maoists, the rebels on Thursday came up with two new demands.
The outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist), besides seeking freedom for a large number of villagers jailed for being Maoists or their sympathisers, now also insists on arrest of Nagrik Suraksha Samiti (NSS) president Shankar Hembrom and others. The NSS was formed to fight Maoists at the village level.
"We have considered the demands of Maoists to free abducted official. The main demand is to release people lodged in Dhalbhumgarh jail of Jamshedpur. Legal process has been initiated to ensure their release. We appeal to them (Maoists) to release the officer," Soren said on Wednesday night.
The operation against Maoists to rescue Layak has also been stopped since Tuesday night, on the Maoists' insistence.
Layak was abducted on Saturday by four armed men of the CPI-Maoist from Dalbhumgarh block of East Singhbhum district.