BHUBANESWAR: Maoists holding BJD legislator Jhina Hikaka for 10 days in Odisha Tuesday set the government a Thursday deadline to meet their demands. Appealing for his immediate release, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik also urged the rebels to extend their deadline.
Patnaik said his government is prepared to hold discussions on the matter, even as Hikaka has accused the government of not taking steps for his release.
The April 5 deadline was conveyed through an audio message by a rebel leader, Chandramouli, who claims to be the secretary of the Andhra-Odisha border special zonal committee of the Communist Party of India-Maoist.
The message was received by journalists here and is in possession of IANS.
Accusing the government of arresting several activists of Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (CMAS) on false charges in Koraput and Malkangiri districts, the rebel leader asked the government to release all of them.
Rejecting any negotiation, he said: "We are giving the government an April 5 deadline."
The rebel leader did not name those whose release he wants.
The CMAS is active in the southern parts of the state, including in Malkangiri and Koraput, on tribal issues. Police say the organisation has Maoist support.
Hikaka, who represents Laxmipur constituency in the assembly, was abducted by the rebels from a hilly area of Koraput district March 24.
Hikaka, who is in Maoist custody, has reportedly sent a letter to Patnaik saying the government was not taking steps for his release "because he is a tribal".
He also threatened to resign from the assembly membership if the government did not meet the Maoist demands. He, however, has stated that he is safe.
There has been no progress on the release of Italian tour operator Bosusco Paolo, 54, who has been in captivity of another Maoist group since March 14.
Paolo was abducted with another Italian, Claudio Colangelo, 61, from a forested area on the border of Ganjam and Kandhamal districts. The rebels March 25 released Colangelo in a "goodwill gesture".
Sabyasachi Panda, a rebel leader known as Sunil and who has claimed responsibility for the abduction of the Italians, Monday demanded release of some people arrested for Maoist activities.
Accusing the government of preparing to launch a police operation against the Maoists, he said: "If such a thing happens, the life of the Italian will be under threat."
Patnaik meanwhile said his government is prepared to hold discussion on the release of certain members of the CMAS as per the rebels' demand.
He also invited the CMAS leader Nachika Linga to come forwards for talks directly with the government.
Appealing the both group of the rebels to release the hostages unharmed, Patnaik said the talks for the release of Paolo will be resumed Wednesday.