Maoists to free Hikaka tomorrow, MLA to resign after release

Bhubaneswar: In a major relief to the state government, Maoists holding BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka in captivity for over a month today announced that a `praja court` (peoples` court) has decided that he would be released tomorrow after giving an undertaking that he would resign from the state assembly as well as from the ruling Biju Janata Dal(BJD).

"Hikaka will put in his papers after his release and has given a written undertaking to this effect in the `praja court. He is all right and in good health," said Maoist leader Aruna of the Andhra-Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) in an audio message to the OTV.

The 37-year-old MLA would be handed over to his wife Kaushalya Hikaka and Koraput-based lawyer Nihar Patnaik, counsel of the Maoist-backed Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh(CMAS) tomorrow morning at village Balipeta near Narayanpatna in Koraput district, the message from the senior leader of the AOBSZC said. The ultras of the AOBSZC had kidnapped the MLA in the wee hours of March 24 in Koraput district.

The MLA reportedly told the `praja` court held on April 23 and April 24 that he would resign as MLA and also snap ties with BJD and live as an ordinary citizen and work for the development of the people especially tribals. Hikaka, according to the message from Aruna alleged that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik did not take any active steps for his release because he was a tribal.

The message in Odia language said that people claimed that Hikaka as the local MLA had failed to stop `anti-people` measures of the government, which was `admitted` by him. It said that the `praja court` also discussed `Operation Greenhunt`, police operations and alleged excesses and atrocities against innocent people. The Maoists had earlier in the morning informed the lawyer of CMAS, Nihar Ranjan Patnaik about the decisions of the `praja` court`.

Though the Maoists had initially placed a tough condition that 29 freed rebels be produced at Balipeta along with the MLA`s wife and the lawyer for hostage-prisoner exchange, they softened their stand later. The chief minister and several other BJD leaders including the three government officials who represented the government in the talks with the two Maoist-named negotiators for the release of the two Italian nationals by another group of the Maoists had appealed several times for Hikaka`s release.