A day after Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik announced the names of 27 persons to be set free from jail in exchange for the release of Italian citizen Basusco Paolo (55) and MLA Jhina Hikaka (37) from Maoist captivity, there was no word yet from the rebels.
On the other hand the two Maoist backed mediators holding talks for Paolo's release on Friday sought a clarification on how the government would facilitate the release of the people in jail.
Social activist Dandapani Mohanty told the Hindustan Times: "I am trying to understand what the government meant by the word 'facilitate'. I will be doing a research on it."
The mediators however said they were awaiting the Maoists' response to carry forward the talks.
On Thursday, Patnaik said the government had decided to facilitate the release of 27 people from jail as demanded by the rebels in exchange for the freedom of the hostages.
Prominent among them are Subhasree Panda, wife of Sabyasachi Panda, who heads the Odisha State Organising Committee (OSOC) of the CPI (Maoist); Suka Nachika, brother of Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha chief Nachika Linga; and Maoist couple Setu Parangi and Murla Neelam Reddy.
Following the chief minister's announcement, the Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee extended its deadline from Thursday to Saturday for fulfilment of all its demands for the MLA's release.
Sources said the government's announcement does not exactly mean swapping of prisoners with the hostages. The word 'facilitation' involves legal process for the release of people in jail and may take a bit longer which may have put off the Maoists, they said.
OSOC, headed by Sabyasachi Panda abducted Paolo and compatriot Claudio Colangelo (60) from Kandhamal district on March 14, while Hikaka was abducted by the AOBSZC, headed by Ramkrishna, on March 24. Panda freed Colangelo on March 25 as a "goodwill gesture".