Hostage row: Uncertainty reigns as deadline draws near

Bhubaneswar: The state government was examining the legal aspects of the fresh demands made by the Maoists to secure the release of Italian national Paolo Bosusco and Laxmipur MLA Jhina Hikaka even as the deadlines set by the two factions of the CPI(Maoist) ends on Tuesday.

The Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee(AOBZSC), the abductors of Laxmipur tribal MLA of the ruling BJD, has rejected the government`s decision to facilitate the release of 23 persons including 8 Maoists and 15 members of the naxal backed Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh(CMAS) and demanded the release of five more prisoners while the response of the Secretary of the State Organising Committee of the CPI(Maoist), Sabyasachi Panda was still awaited to the joint press statements issued by the government and the two Maoist-named mediators on the release of the Italian national Paolo Bosusco. Sabyasachi had earlier in an audio statement urged the government to make its stand clear on the release demands raised by the State Organising Committee.

The ultras belonging to the AOBSZC have upped the ante with the additional demand to release five more prisoners including hardcore Maoist Ghasi now lodged in the Koraput jail. The Maoists of the AOBSZC have issued said that four persons namely the two Maoist mediators B D Sharma, Dandapani Mohanty, lawyer Nihar Ranjan Pattanaik and the wife of the abducted MLA Koushalya should reach Kalipeta under Narayanpatna block with 30 prisoners on April 10 where they would hand over the kidnapped MLA held in captivity since March 23.

Government officials however said that it was a difficult proposition set by the Maoists. Chief Secretary Bijaya Patnaik said,"We are examing the legal aspects of the matter and about the cases pending against the persons." The lawyer Nihar Ranjan Patnaik said,"It is impossible to take so many persons at this stage as it involves legalities and the courts will decide about release on merits of the cases. Then only I might agree to go as an emissary."

Meanwhile, the Odisha Police Association(OPA) and the Constable and Havildar Association have jointly opposed the government`s decision to facilitate the release of Maoists. The OPA President Sawarmal Sharma said, “The government should not release any hardcore Maoist to end the hostage crisis. We would be compelled to boycott duty in the Maoist affected areas in that case."