Maoists extend deadline in Odisha

Maoists extend deadline in Odisha

Abductors of BJD legislator now seek release of 29 prisoners

The Maoists’ faction--Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee responsible for the abduction of ruling BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka, slightly softened its stand on Sunday while setting a new deadline for the state government to fulfill its demand for the release of the young tribal legislator from its captivity.

The Naxal group which was earlier demanding release of 30 of their imprisoned cadres and supporters in exchange of MLA Hikaka’s freedom has now reduced the number to 29.

Importantly, the one who has been excluded from the list is Cheda Bhusanam alias Ghasi, a hardcore Maoist whom the Odisha government was reluctant to free because of the serious nature of the cases pending against him in the courts.

Ghasi was involved in more than 50 Naxal-related violent incidents not only in Odisha but also in neighbouring states like Andhra Pradesh. The cases included killing of several policemen. He was also carrying a reward of Rs 10 lakh on his head before he was arrested by the Odisha police last year.

In a letter released to the media on Sunday, the Maoists, however, have made it clear that the members of the CPI(Maoists) and their supporting organisation the Chasi Mulia Advasi Sangha(CMAS) who have figured in the list of 29 would not apply for bail as desired by the state government. “The government should withdraw the cases against them which will pave the way for their release from the prisons”, the faction’s spokesperson Jagabandhu said in the letter.

The letter further said that the 29 persons should be freed from jails by 5 pm on April 18 and handed over to the Koraput-based lawyer Nihar Patnaik and the abducted MLA’s wife Koushalya Majhi who will bring them to Balipeta village under Narayanpatna block of the Koraput district and take Hikaka back.

“No police or intelligence officer should accompany or follow lawyer Patnaik or the MLA’s wife”, the letter warned adding that the deadline would not be extended further and they would decided their next course of action if the government did not accept their demand by the new deadline.

Responding to the Maoists’ move, the state government on Sunday evening announced to release two more imprisoned persons - both members of CMAS. Earlier, the government had agreed to set free 23 people - eight members of CPI(Maoists) and 15 belonging to CMAS.

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