Maoists raise demand to 30 for 1

BHUBANESWAR: In a new turn to the hostage crisis, the Andhra Odisha Border Zonal Committee (AOBZC) of the CPI(Maoist), holding BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka hostage, has asked his wife Kaushalya to reach a village in the Naxalite-affected Narayanpatna block on April 10 along with 30 prisoners to pave the way for the legislator’s release.

In a press note, AOBZC spokesman Jagabandhu asked Kaushalya to reach Balipeta village along with 30 rebels, including 23 persons whose release the State Government had decided to facilitate, and seven more rebels.

The MLA’s wife should be accompanied by the two Naxal-nominated mediators __ B D Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty __ engaged in the Italian hostage crisis, and Koraput-based lawyer Nihar Patnaik, it said. One of the Maoist nominated mediators, Sharma, had, meanwhile, left the State capital for Delhi.

The Maoists said they would hand over the abducted 37-year-old Laxmipur MLA to them provided they do not bring along any police or intelligence officials.

The Press note was released a day after the Maoists, in a message to the media, extended the deadline for fulfilment of their demands till April 10. They had initially fixed April 5 as deadline and then extended it till Saturday.

Jagabandhu, however, said actual Maoist leaders or CMAS activists do not figure among the names of the prisoners, announced by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, to be freed in exchange for the release of Hikaka. Describing this as another eyewash and deception by the Government, the note said the Maoists have been demanding right from the beginning the release of all political prisoners lodged in Koraput and Malkangiri jails.

Instead of announcing the names of important leaders, the Government list contained only unimportant or not so important ones, it added.

Stating that the Maoists are not going to be influenced by such announcements by the Chief Minister, the Press note alleged that the State Government and the ruling party betrayed them by not implementing the agreement arrived at for the release of then Malkangiri Collector Vineel Krishna. There is no question of reposing any faith in this Government, it said, adding, “we lost all confidence in Naveen Patnaik, who is shedding crocodile tears.”

The note said of the eight Maoists who are supposed to be freed, only four are in Koraput jail. “Of the four, only two __ Arjun and Seta Ponga alias Sunita __ had worked with us earlier and the remaining two __ Narsi and Jarkha __ are innocent tribal women who had been jailed after false charges were framed against them. They have also been branded as Maoists,” it said.

The four, who are in Malkangiri Jail, are also innocent tribals arrested illegally, the note added.

The note said that the Maoists want the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh adviser Gananath Patra, Revolutionary Tribal Mahila president Sunno Pangi, leaders Singa Nachika and Valsi Wadika, Maoist Cheda Bhushanam to be released along with the 23 persons, announced by the Government on April 5.

The deadline had been extended to April 10 and Hikaka will be released safely if these demands are met, it said. The note further said the State Government announced that Sikku Nachika and Chakra Tadingi would be released in exchange for freeing Italian Paolo Bosusco. Since both Nachika and Tandingi are from Narayanpatna, they should be released along with the 28 people. The total comes to 30, it said.

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