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Govt hopes MLA will be released soon

Bhubaneswar: With the Maoists dropping the name of a hardcore ultra from the list of their 30 jailed associates and extending the deadline, the state government today expressed hopes that BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka could be released on April 18.

"It appears from the fresh message of the Maoists that they will release the MLA on April 18" as the Maoists are no longer demanding that Chenda Bhusanam alias Ghasi, accused of killing at least 55 police, be freed, State Home Secretary U N Behera said.

The government would provide assistance to facilitate the release of the 29 prisoners, Behera said, adding that he expected some bail petitions will be moved in courts by tomorrow. In view of extension of the deadline, he said it was necessary that bail petitions for 15 members of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh and eight Maoists were filed immediately. "The state government once again appeals to Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) to release Hikaka while the process for release of 15 members of CMAS and eight Maoists is on," he said.

"The government has not taken any decision on the release of four other persons. The legal aspects are being examined," the Home Secretary said. Behera said efforts are on to convince lawyers representing Maoists and CMAS members to move bail petitions and the government was hopeful that they would do it at the earliest. In view of the reluctance by the ultras to seek bail and their insistence on complete withdrawal of cases against them, the state government would have to make special effort to convince them, an official said.

The Maoists, however, have stuck to their condition for a prisoner-hostage exchange. They have demanded that the MLA`s wife Kaushalya and a lawyer to accompany the 29 freed cadres to Balipeta in Koraput district for freeing Hikaka. It might turn out to be difficult for the Odisha government to arrange the physical presence of the freed prisoners at Balipeta in the Maoist hotbed of Narayanpatna in Koraput district.

Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who is on a visit to Delhi, is in regular touch with senior officials on the hostage issue, a senior official said. Hikaka was abducted on March 24 in Koraput district.

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