BHUBANESWAR/JEYPORE: The possibility of an early freedom for Laxmipur legislator Jhina Hikaka by the CPI(Maoist) appeared remote with none of the 29 prisoners, whose release the Red rebels have sought, appying for bail. The extended deadline to meet the demands presented by the radicals expires on April 18.
Amidst the confusion, the State Government took refuge under the alibi that four of them have moved bail. This is partly true, for the four in question had applied for bail long before the abduction.
On Monday, when the situation showed no signs of any improvement, the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh mobilised a massive meeting at Kauribadi, 28 km from Nayaranpatna. CMAS chief Nachika Linga reiterated the demand for unconditional release of the 29 prisoners. The outfit will stage a dharna in front of the houses of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, MLA Hikaka and the Koraput Collector if the demand is not met, he said. At least 4,000 tribals assembled at the meeting, armed with traditional weapons.
Meanwhile, the Government kept its stand unchanged. It said bail applications of the 25 members should be moved so as to facilitate their release. Panchayati Raj Secretary P K Jena issued appeals on behalf of the Government for the release of the MLA.
While the Government has been sticking to its gun, the Maoists have not budged either. Their demand for a swap deal remained intact which, reliable sources said, will only delay the whole process. “The stand of the Maoists that they will hold ‘praja court’ after receiving the 29 prisoners at Balipeta sends a confusing signal. What is the point of dropping charges against 29 prisoners if it does not guarantee the freedom of the MLA?” official sources said.
Hikaka, being a tribal and popular among the natives, it is unlikely that a praja court would decide any punishment against him, which has kept the Maoists worried. It is also a reason they have been insisting on release of the 29 persons before holding the praja court.
Meanwhile, Dandapani Mohanty, one of the interlocutors in the Italian hostage crisis, was at Tanginipadar village and sources said he could be there to seek a truce between the Andhra-Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee and Odisha State Organising Committee of the CPI(Maoist) since these outfits have fallen out badly during the ongoing spate of events.