When the hopes of freeing Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MLA Jhina Hikaka from the captivity of the Maoists dwindled following fresh demands from the rebels, something dramatic happened. The rebels have decided to release the young legislator on Thursday.
Maoists have decided to release Jhina Hikaka after praja (people's) court pronounced its verdict on him after hearing the case for two days from April 23. He will be released at 10 a.m. Thursday in the presence of his wife Kausaliya and lawyer Nihar Ranjan Patnaik, who fights cases for the Maoists.
Jhina Hikaka reportedly told the 'praja court' that only the tribals helped him during the captivity and not the government. He also announced before the court that he would try to help fulfill the demands of the Maoists and that he would quit as a legislator if he fails to keep his words.
The 37-year-old MLA from Laxmipur was abducted by the Maoists on March 24.
The Maoists had earlier demanded the release of 29 prisoners for the release of the MLA while the government was willing to release only 23. Things turned from bad to worse when the Maoists made a fresh demand on Monday. They demanded the release of 70 prisoners belonging to Maoist-backed tribal organization Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (CMAS).
Complicating the matter even further, retired Major General Gangdeep Bakshi moved the court to stop the government from releasing the Maoists prisoners in exchange for Jhina Hikaka. He filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court arguing that freeing the Maoists prisoners would affect the morale of the armed forces, as they had put their lives at risk to capture the rebels. He also pleaded that Supreme Court's guidelines framed during the abduction of South India superstar Dr. Rajkumar be followed in Odisha hostage crisis too.
It was also reported that central paramilitary forces engaged in anti-Maoist operations were not happy with decision of the Odisha government to release prisoners to secure the release of the hostages. They feel that the decision of the government could embolden the rebels to resort to such activities in the future.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik recently attended a high-level meeting with senior police officers and administration officials to discuss on the hostage crisis. He also met Hikaka's family members including his mother, wife Kausaliya and children, and assured them that the government would do its best for his release.