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Maoists want 5 more let off

Bhubaneswar, April 7: The Maoists holding ruling BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka hostage today demanded the release of five more persons in addition to the 27 announced earlier by the state government. The rebels also extended the deadline for the fulfilment of their demands till April 10.

In a fresh audiotape, CPI(Maoist) Andhra-Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee member Jagbandhu said the government must release five more persons, including Chhenda Bhushnam, a top Maoist commander currently lodged in Koraput jail.

The four others whose release has been sought by the Maoists are Chasi Muliya Adivasi Sangh (CMAS) ideologue Gananath Patra, and Suna Pangi, Singa Nachika and Walsi Wadka, all activists of the organisation. The Maoist leader said the government must release these persons by April 10 if the MLA was to return home safely.

“The MLA is in good health but the government must meet our demands if he has to return home safely,” the leader warned. The Maoist leader recalled that chief minister Naveen Patnaik in his April 5 statement had said that out of the 27 persons the government was willing to release in exchange for the MLA and Italian tourist Paolo Bosusco, 23 would be traded for the legislator and the rest four to secure the freedom of Bosusco .

Of the 23 to be exchanged for the MLA, the government had named eight as Maoists and the rest as CMAS members. However, Jagbandhu disputed the chief minister’s claim, saying that of the eight names announced by the chief minister, only two were Maoists.

Sources said the latest audio message had put the state government in a quandary, as Chhenda Bhushanam alias Ghasi is a hardcore Maoist wanted in at least 30 cases in Odisha and several cases in Andhra Pradesh.

“In his case, the Andhra Pradesh government will also have to be involved, which might make things difficult,” said a senior official here.

Talks being held here between the state government and mediators, Jan Adhikar Manch convenor Dandapani Mohanty and forest rights activist B.D. Sharma, concluded here today with both sides making a fresh appeal for the release of Bosusco.

Their appeal coincided with Naveen’s statement in the Assembly.

“The Maoist side had sought the release of six persons. The government has decided to facilitate the release of five persons out of the list of six persons. Mr Sabyasachi Panda has stated through the media yesterday that the views of his mediators have not been taken into consideration. Mr Panda’s statement is incorrect,” Naveen said.