OPA threatens strike over prisoner exchange

The fate of abducted BJD MLA and Italian tour operator continued to be uncertain as the Maoists, who have kept the MLA hostage, on Monday wrote a letter to his wife to reach a village in Narayanpatna block of Koraput district on April 10 along with 30 prisoners to pave the way for his release.

As a clueless Naveen Patnaik government worked hard to meet the demands of the Andhra Orissa Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) and the Orissa State Organising Committee of the Maoists before the April 10 deadline, the letter written by the rebels to the MLA’s wife has created a new problem.

The government’s problems are also set to worsen with the Orissa Police Association threatening to go on strike if any hardcore Maoists are released in a swap deal. “If the government does release anyone, the policemen in Maoist areas would not do their duty,” said Sawarmal Sharma, president of Odisha Police Association.

Sabyasachi Panda, secretary of Orissa State Organising Committee, in an audiotape sought clarification on the actual number of his followers being released, and on whether it was releasing those that the rebels wanted. On the other hand, Jagabandhu, the spokesperson of AOBSZC wrote a letter to MLA Jhina Hikaka’s wife Kaushalya to reach Blipeta village in Narayanpatna on April 10 with 30 Maoists and sympathisers.

Prominent among those the Maoists want to see free is Ghasi alias Chenda Bhushanam, who is involved in 65 cases in Andhra Pradesh and Orissa and has a reward of Rs 20 lakh on his head. Arrested last year, he is lodged in Koraput jail. The AOBSZC has demanded that the 30 persons lodged in Koraput and Malkangiri jails be released immediately.

Chief Secretary B K Patnaik said that the government has sought opinion of the police on whether the fresh demands made by the rebels could be met.

The letter also said that two Naxal-nominated mediators — B D Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty who mediated for the release of Italian tour operator Paolo Bosusco — be present at the meeting with Koraput-based lawyer Nihar Ranjan Patnaik.

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 tribals of Narayanpatna block in Koraput on Monday organised a rally under the banner of Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh demanding that all CMAS activists lodged in Koraput jail be released forthwith.

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