BHUBANESWAR/KORAPUT: Even as Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced the names of 23 Maoists and activists of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (CMAS) to be swapped for the release of MLA Jhina Hikaka, there is no response yet from the Andhra-Odisha Border Zonal Committee (AOBZC).
The local BJD leaders, who are working for the early release of the kidnapped MLA, do not have any clue as to the timing. They hope for a positive response from the Naxalites after the Government announcement.
The CMAS, whose 15 activists are going to be released in the swap deal, is also yet to respond. The situation has become complicated after secretary of the outfit’s State Organising Committee Sabyasachi Panda rejected Naveen’s announcement that four Maoists, including Subhashree Das alias Milli Panda, will be released in lieu of Italian national Paolo Bosusco.
Sources said the AOBZC is likely to hold a “praja court” for Hikaka before taking any decision on his release. Though such speculation is doing the rounds at the local level, there is no specific information as yet.
The AOBZC had set April 5 deadline for fulfilment of their demands for the release of Hikaka. A Maoist leader had telephoned a section of the media on Thursday, saying the deadline, which was to end last evening, had been extended till the evening of April 7. Italian Ambassador Giacomo Sanfelice di Monteforte met Chief Secretary B K Patnaik after the fresh ultimatum. Home Secretary U N Behera said the new demand by Panda was being examined. Referring to the BJD legislator’s abduction, Sabyasachi said the incident had raised several questions and the Government’s attention appeared to have shifted from securing the release of the abducted Italian.
Friday’s development came as a setback to the Government, which was hoping that the two hostages would be released after the latest swap offer.
Among those to be released, 15 belonged to the Naxal-backed CMAS. The eight Maoists to be freed included six from Odisha and a couple from Andhra Pradesh, Murla Neelam Reddy and his wife Setu Pangi. The four others were among the names furnished by the Odisha State Organising Committee of CPI(Maoist) for the release of the Italian.