Bhubaneswar, June 13: Two Maoists, suspected to be involved in the kidnapping of BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka in March, were today arrested from Narayanpatna in Koraput.
The rebels, Arjun Meleka and Musuri Wateka, were hiding in a hut on the outskirts of Kanchanpadu village in the Narayanpatna police limits when they were surrounded by a team of Special Operations Group jawans engaged in a combing operation in the area.
While Meleka belongs to Kanchanpadu, Wateka hails from the nearby Dandabadi village. Koraput superintendent of police Avinash Kumar said there was a suspicion of their involvement in the abduction of Laxmipur MLA Jhina Hikaka who was taken hostage from near Toyaput village in Koraput district on March 24 while returning from a party meeting late at night. “We suspect their involvement in the case. They are being interrogated and we expect more information to come out,” said Kumar.
He said the arrested rebels were involved in several cases, including murder and attack on security forces.
The subdivisional police officer (SDPO) of Koraput, Jagannath Rao said Meleka and Wateka had eight cases each against their names. These included at least two murders and the attack on Narayanpatna police station in 2009 in which four policemen had sustained injuries. The Maoists had also looted some arms from the police station which is reckoned among the most sensitive in Koraput district, a known rebel bastion.
Rao said that the two arrested rebels were members of the Maoist-backed Chasi Muliya Adivasi Sangh (CMAS) from 2008 to 2010 and later became full-fledged members of the Andhra-Odisha Special Border Zonal Committee of CPI (Maoist) under the influence of one Kakara Panana who used to motivate tribals in Narayanpatna and Bandhugaon areas of Koraput to join the Maoist movement.
“In February this year the police had raided the house of Meleka in Kanchanpadu village and seized a gun. However, he had managed to escape,” said the SDPO adding that the rebel was also an accused in the murder of Narsingh Wateka, an alleged police informer from Dandabadi village.
The abduction of 38-year-old Hikaka, which came close on the heels of kidnapping of two Italians by another group of Maoists, had plunged the Naveen Patnaik government into a crisis. Unlike in the case of Italians, who were released following negotiations between the government and the Maoist-chosen interlocutors, the kidnappers of Hikaka had refused to name any mediators and put forth demands which the administration found hard to meet.
The Andhra-Odisha Special Border Zonal Committee of the Maoists, which had claimed responsibility for the kidnap, demanded release of 18 rebels and CMAS members who were in jail on serious charges.
However, when the government hardened its stance saying that their release was not possible without moving bail applications a judicial formalities in this regard being completed, the rebels, who realized that they did not stand to gain anything by holding the MLA any longer, released Hikaka on April 26. Before setting him free they obtained a written undertaking from him that he would resign his assembly seat.
The undertaking continues to haunt Hikaka, who fearing reprisal from the Maoists, has since shifted base to Bhubaneswar where he is guarded round the clock by four armed security men. While his two sons have been admitted to a school here, his wife, Kaushalaya Majhi, a para teacher ( sihkya sahayika), has also been transferred to Bhubaneswar from Koraput. Political circles are abuzz with speculation that Hiaka might be inducted into the ministry when the chief minister effects a rejig which is expected soon.