The Maoist faction responsible for the abduction of BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka on Wednesday said the legislator’s fate will be decided in a People’s Court.
The Odisha government, on its part, declared that cases against 13 of the 25 imprisoned associates of the Maoists will be withdrawn.
The rebels have not yet disclosed the venue and schedule of the People’s Court. “The government’s response to our demand is not adequate. Therefore, we will be holding a praja court where the MLA’s fate will be decided,” said Aruna, a prominent member of the Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee, in an audio message sent to local media houses here.
The statement came minutes before the Wednesday evening deadline set by the Maoists, for the government to act on their demands, elapsed. Aruna, however, ruled out possibilities of extending the deadline. The Maoists had sought release of 29 associates at present lodged in various prisons across the state against Hikaka’s release. The government, in turn, had agreed to set free 25 of them.
However, the parleys hit a roadblock after the government insisted that all the 25 persons should apply for bail, as against the Maoists’ demand that cases against them should be withdrawn.
In retaliation, the Odisha government on Tuesday said withdrawal of cases will be considered only after Hikaka is released. State Home Secretary U N Behera, in a press conference on Wednesday, said the government has decided to withdraw prosecution against 13 of the 25 Maoist associates.
“The government has decided to withdraw the ongoing prosecution on 13 persons. I hope the step will satisfy the Maoists and they would release the MLA soon,” Behera said.
He further said four of the seven others who had applied for bail, have already got reprieve.
“I appeal others to come forward with their bail applications and the government would facilitate their release,” the home secretary said.
However, it remained unclear whether the government’s gesture have softened the rebels, since Aruna, in the latest audio tape, mentioned that the rebels do not trust the government. “We do not believe in government’s utterances,” she said.
State Chief Secretary Bijoy Patnaik, however, appealed to the Maoists to cooperate with the government. “The government is initiating steps to fulfill their demands. Therefore, they should cooperate,” he said.