Maoists soften stand, give more time

BHUBANESWAR: After days of silence, the CPI(Maoist) on Sunday set April 18 as the fresh deadline for the release of abducted Laxmipur MLA Jhina Hikaka in exchange for prisoners the group wants to be set free.

In a fresh audio tape, Maoist leader Aruna has said on behalf of Jagabandhu, the spokesman of the Andhra- Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC), that the kidnapped MLA will be safely handed over near Balipeta village in Maoist-affected Narayapatna block by 5 pm on Wednesday in lieu of the prisoners. Jagabandhu also released a Press note containing more or less the same demands.

The Maoists have softened their stand somewhat by dropping the demand for the release of Cheda Bhusanam alias Ghasi, the hardcore Naxalite involved in several incidents of violence, from the swap deal. “Ghasi is the only Maoist in the list of 30 demanded to be set free by us, rest are either members of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (CMAS) or innocent tribals,” the Maoists said.

The prisoners should be accompanied by Nihar Patnaik, the lawyer of the CMAS and the CPI (Maoist). Aruna said Hikaka will be handed over to his wife Kaushalya, who should be accompanied by advocate Nihar. Aruna has warned that no police or intelligence officials should accompany Nihar or the wife of the abducted MLA. She said the filing of bail on behalf of the prisoners should be arranged by the Government.

Home Secretary U N Behera on Sunday told mediapersons that the Government has announced it will facilitate the release of 25 persons __ 17 prisoners of the CMAS and eight from the CPI(Maoist). While names of 23 persons were announced to be released in the swap deal for Hikaka, two CMAS activists, Suka Nachika and Chakra Tandingi, were to be set free for Italian national Paolo Bosusco.

Behera said the AOBSZC has released another audio tape saying that they are no longer insisting on releasing Ghasi. A CPI(Maoist) representative has asked the wife of the MLA and the advocate of the CMAS to go to Balipeta on April 18 along with the people released from jail, he said.

“It is necessary that the bail petitions on behalf of 15 members of the CMAS and eight Maoists are filed immediately, so that their release can be facilitated,” he said.

The Home Secretary renewed his appeal for the release of Hikaka immediately while the process of release of 15 members of the CMAS and eight Maoists are on. Behera said the demand of AOBSZC to release four more activists of the CMAS is still being examined by the State Government. Referring to the demand of the Maoists to withdraw the cases against all the 29 prisoners, he said the process will be expedited “if we go through bail applications.”

Nihar told this paper that his clients have asked him not to file any bail applications on their behalf. “I will go to Balipeta on April 18 if all the 29 prisoners are released, as demanded by the Maoists,” he said.

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