BHUBANESWAR: With the Maoists sticking to their guns and determined to hold BJD legislator Jhina Hikaka hostage till April 25, the State Government on Saturday said it would welcome anyone volunteering to negotiate with the rebels.
“Right from the beginning, we have been requesting the CPI (Maoist) to name a negotiator for talks to facilitate release of the MLA. If anyone comes forward to negotiate, the Government will welcome him/her,” Home Secretary UN Behera told mediapersons here. The statement came after the Maoists’ Andhra-Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) said in a message that the fate of the MLA would be decided at a praja court by April 25. They have decided to hold another kangaroo court as the one held on Thursday was indecisive.
There is no information regarding where and when the next court would be held, said Koraput-based lawyer Nihar Ranjan Patnaik, who fights cases for the Maoists and their front Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS). The Maoists have stuck to their demand for release of 29 rebels after dropping charges against them. They have rejected the State Government’s offer to withdraw cases against 13 prisoners, including five Maoists, and facilitate release of 12 others on bail.
BANDH IMPACT: As part of their two-day bandh since Friday, the Maoists on Saturday blocked roads in their stronghold of Narayanpatna in Koraput district demanding withdrawal of security forces, halt to Operation Green Hunt and release of jailed rebels.
Roads to Narayanpatna were dug up and blocked by felling trees. The Maoists set a mobile tower afire at Bandhugaon area on Friday night apart from torching some vehicles at a construction site in Semiliguda area.
The rebels also announced that a ‘protest week’ would be observed from April 24 in Odisha and Chhattisgarh against Operation Green Hunt. The abducted MLA had last spoken over telephone with Chief Secretary Bijay Kumar Patnaik and Koraput Collector Sachin Ramachandra Jadav on April 17 informing them that he was in good health.