MLA’s capters ask Odisha govt to free 5 more Maoists
PTI BHUBANESWAR THE Odisha government on Saturday said it will release five of the six rebels the Maoists have demanded for the release of the Italian hostage, while another Naxal group holding MLA Jhina Hikaka extended the deadline to April 10 and demanded that five more persons be freed.
“The Maoists have sought release of six persons. The State government has decided to facilitate the release of five of the six,” Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said in a statement in the State Assembly.
Mounting pressure on the State government, Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda had on Friday threatened to take the “extreme step” against the 54-year-old Italian hostage Paolo Bosusco if his demands were not met within 96 hours.
Terming as “incorrect” that views of BD Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty, negotiating the release of the Italian, were not taken into consideration, Patnaik said the two had categorically stated that the rebels wanted six persons — Arati Majhi, Manohan Pradhan, Suka Nachika, Chakra Tadingi, Bijay Tadingi and Subhashree Das, released.
“I appeal again to the Odisha unit of CPI (Maoist) headed by Panda to release the Italian national immediately,” Patnaik said. He also appealed for the immediate release of Hikaka, the BJD MLA from Laxmipur.
Rejecting the Odisha government’s offer of releasing 23 prisoners, the Maoist group holding Hikaka captive extended the deadline for fulfilment of their demands till April 10, 2012 and sought release of an additional five persons.
A senior leader of Maoist Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee told the media over telephone that the MLA was safe and the deadline which was to end on Saturday, was extended to April 10, 2012.
Besides the 23 prisoners, the Maoist group demanded release of five more persons — one rebel and four members of Maoist-backed Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha who were in jail in Koraput. Meanwhile, the State government and the Maoist mediators held fresh talks on the demands to be met for the release of Bosusco.
“Considerable progress has been made during talks,” Home Secretary UN Behera told reporters after the meet.
Though what exactly transpired at the meeting was not clear, sources said both sides were believed to have discussed names of prisoners to be freed. Panda’s insistence on a written agreement was also understood to have figured at the meeting, sources said.
Bosusco, a Puri-based tour operator, was abducted with fellow Italian Claudio Colangelo on March 14 while they were trekking in Kandhamal district. Colangelo was freed on March 25 as a “good will gesture” by the ultras.