BHUBANESWAR: The ongoing hostage crisis in Odisha has revealed that the Naxal group in the state is a divided house. Rivalry within the ranks is making the task of the Odisha government all the more difficult for negotiating the release of the second Italian hostage and the abducted BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka.
One Italain hostage Claudio Colangelo was released on Sunday by the Maoists. The drama which unfolded in Odisha over the past few days leading up to the release of Colangelo points to sharp divisions within the Maoist camp. A fact that even Kandhamal Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda admitted after the abduction of Hikaka.
“We condemn the violence being used by Andhra-Odisha Border Committee. We do not support violence,” Panda said. The Panda-led group operates in four districts of Odisha with their base in Kandhamal. The other group - Andhra-Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee - is headed by a Ramakrishna, and is based in Koraput.
Sources say the Koraput group disapproves of Panda's political connections in Bubhaneshwar. It was unhappy with his decision to kill Swami Laxmananda Saraswati, which triggered the 2008 Kandhamal riots. It’s also upset over his decision to abduct the Italians.
The Koraput group abducted Hikaka turning opinion against Panda. This wasn't the first time they had spoiled his game. When Panda announced a unilateral ceasefire ahead of the negotiations they had responded by killing policemen in Koraput and Malkangiri.
Negotiator BD Sharma said, "After coming here now I become more clear that there are different faction within the naxals." So far, the focus has been to secure the release of the Italians from Panda's custody. Hikaka's fate is in the hands of his silent rivals.
If the negotiators are to be believed then the second Italian hostage might be released as early as Wednesday evening. But as far as the abducted MLA is concerned his release might take longer as his abduction issue is more complicated and carried out by a different Naxal group.