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Hikaka release plea goes unheard

Bhubaneswar, April 21: Another anxious day passed with the Odisha government’s appeal to the Maoists to release Laxmipur MLA Jhina Hikaka, who was taken captive on March 24, falling on deaf ears.

The rebels appeared to have hardened their stance with CPI(Maoist) Srikakulam-Koraput divisional committee secretary Daya stating in a letter that freedom for Hikaka could only come when the Odisha government released all the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (CMAS) activists lodged in jails.

Slamming the Odisha government’s policy towards the Maoists, the letter written in Telugu accused the officialdom of delaying the release of the undertrial prisoners whose freedom the rebels were demanding in exchange for Hikaka, one of the youngest tribal MLAs of the Biju Janata Dal.

“We oppose the Odisha government’s policy and approach. We also condemn the delay in the matter of releasing the prisoners,” said the letter received by some newspersons here.

The rebel leader, who reiterated the demand for a halt to Operation Green Hunt, described the petition filed in the Supreme Court by a retired army officer on the hostage issue as a government conspiracy. “This is designed to further delay the prospects of finding an early solution to the hostage issue,” said Daya in the letter that comes as a blow to the government which has been desperately trying to bring the crisis to an end.

While renewing his appeal to the rebels today to release Hikaka, Odisha home secretary U.N. Behera appeared to be at pains to explain the government’s sincerity in the matter. “Of the 25 persons whose release the Maoists have sought, five CMAS members have already got bail. We have also initiated the process of withdrawing cases against 13 of them,” said Behera.

Sources said that the government was also trying its best to get in touch with top Maoist leaders through a back channel to work out a deal for the release of Hikaka.