Maoists free abducted Jhina Hikaka

Bhubaneswar: Putting all speculations and denials to rest the Maoists on Thursday morning freed the abducted Laxmipur MLA Jhina Hikaka, held in captivity for over a month at village Balipeta near Narayanpatna of Koraput district.

The 37-year-old legislator, who reportedly agreed in the praja (people’s) court to resign as MLA and snap all ties with Biju Janata Dal (BJD) after his release, was handed over to his wife Kaushalya Majhi and Maoist-backed Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS) lawyer Nihar Patnaik.

Hikaka was abducted by Maoists in Koraput district on March 24, while two Italians Paolo Bosusco (54) and Claudio Colangelo (61) were taken hostage on March 14 during trekking in tribal-dominated Kandhamal district. On March 25 they released Colangelo as a "goodwill gesture" while Paolo was freed on April 12.

After abducting the first-time tribal legislator the extremists demanded to release 29 prisoners in exchange for Jhina Hikaka’s freedom. The rebel group’s list of prisoners also included Gananath Patra, leader of CMAS, who has been in Koraput jail for nearly two years.

Responding to their demand, the state government had decided to facilitate release of 25 jailed people, including eight Maoists.

On Wednesday Maoist leader Aruna told OTV over phone that the praja court(peoples` court), held on April 23 and 24 decided to release the MLA after he agreed to resign as MLA and lead a normal life.

The court, she said, also discussed about the ongoing Operation Green Hunt and combing operation near Narayanpatna and the MLA`s role to stop anti-naxal operations by the security forces.

While negotiations between the state government and the Maoists were going on, the Supreme Court last week sought response from Centre and the state government on a petition seeking to restrain the release of jailed Maoists in exchange for the tribal legislator.