In a ray of hope, Maoists, who have kept Biju Janata Dal MLA Jhina Hikaka (37) hostage for more than a month, said on Wednesday that they would release him the following day. Speaking on behalf of the Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee of the CPI (Maoist), rebel leader Aruna said in an audiotape that Hikaka would be handed over to his wife Kaushalya Majhi and NR Patnaik, lawyer for leftist tribal outfit Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha, at Balipeta village in Koraput district at 10 am on Thursday. She warned the government not to send any police and intelligence people along with them.
“The praja court (people’s court) had taken a decision to release Hikaka as he had accepted his mistakes and assured to resign from the Odisha assembly. He admitted in the court that he had failed to do anything for the tribal people after joining BJD and being MLA,” Aruna said.
Aruna said the “praja court” was held on Tuesday in the presence 150 people. It discussed the present situation in Narayanpatna area of Koraput, deployment of anti-Naxal forces and their atrocities and excesses against innocent people. People pointed out how Hikaka as the local MLA had failed to stop such anti-people measures taken by the government. “Hikaka admitted his failure and said the Naveen Patnaik government did not take steps to secure his release because he was a tribal,” she said, adding that finally the court decided in favour of his release.
The rebel leader said, during his (Hikaka’s) captivity of more than one month, Hikaka moved around interior villages, saw the plight of the tribals in his own eyes and admitted that the state government had failed to solve their problems. He reportedly told the “court” that after his release, he would sever all ties with BJD and fight for the rights of the tribals by leading a normal life.
In the evening Odisha home secretary UN Behera said here: “We have heard from the media about the Maoist announcement.”
Maoists had abducted the MLA from Laxmipur from Koraput-Laxmipur road on March 24. For his release, they set a 7-point demand including the release of political prisoners, members of CMAS and “innocent” tribals from jail; implementation of agreement for the release of the then Malkangiri collector R Vineel Krishna, who was abducted in February 2011; and halt to anti-naxal operations.
The state government has agreed to facilitate release 25 persons including 17 CAMS members. Besides, it has decided to withdraw prosecution against 13 of them. But the rebels wanted the government to free 29 persons. The rebels also wanted the government to withdraw cases against all of them.
As the stalemate continued for several days, on April 21, the rebels hardened their stand by making a fresh demand for release of all CMAS members in Koraput jail. There are about 45 CMAS members in Koraput jail, where police has issued warrant against 1000 others, including the outfit’s chief Nachika Linga.