Maoists did not release abducted Block Development Officer Prashant Kumar Layak on Thursday till 7 pm on Thursday despite Jharkhand Chief Minister Shibu Soren’s assurance that 14 prisoners would be released in exchange for Layak.
Throughout the day, there were rumours that the Maoists released Layak near Gudabanda on the Orissa border. But nobody in the state establishment confirmed the report.
“I have been hearing such reports since morning. But there has been no confirmation,” East Singhbhum Deputy Commissioner Rabindra Kumar Agarwal told HT.
Layak was kidnapped by Maoists on Saturday from his office in Dhalbhumgarh, around 180 km southeast of state capital Ranchi. The Maoists demanded that 14 of their cadres would have to be released in exchange for Layak’s life.
But the Maoists remained incommunicado throughout the day.
Soren’s announcement, however, had both the Centre and his party, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha’s clearance. A Home Ministry official in Delhi said the state was examining the cases against the villagers, who had been held for having alleged links with Maoists.
“If the accused are not hardcore Maoists, there should not be a problem,” the official said. “We do not want the BDO to die.”
On Wednesday, at a hastily called JMM executive committee meeting, the leaders urged Soren that the government should hold meetings of local bodies and take their advice before initiating any special drive against the Maoists.
The suggestion was significant as it came after Layak’s abduction. The rank and file of the party clearly opposed any harsh measures against the extremists.
The reasons range from the governments concern over sending a wrong signal to the state bureaucracy to the party’s fear of losing grass-root level support in the state.
The Home Ministry official made it clear that refusing to release the prisoners and risking the life of Layak could “make field officers reluctant to postings in Maoist-affected areas”.
JMM leaders said, “Let there be development first before getting the guns blazing.” They suggested that the panchayat election be held in May to decentralise power and instill confidence in the people.