With attempts to free the abducted Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MLA Jhina Hikaka proving futile, speculations are doing the rounds that the Odisha government might consider releasing dreaded Maoist Chenda Bhushanam alias Ghasi to secure the release of the MLA.
The rebels had demanded the release of Maoists' top cadre Chenda Bhushanam alias Ghasi and four others in exchange for MLA Hikaka. Ghasi, who has one million rupees reward on his head, was arrested in 2011. He is accused of killing 38 security personnel at Malkangiri district in 2008 and masterminding a landmine blast in 2008 that killed 17 Odisha policemen.
However, Home Secretary UN Behera ruled out the release of Ghasi.
"There are some serious charges against Ghasi and we have not taken any decision on the release of five more prisoners including Ghasi," Behera told reporters.
The Odisha government has stepped up efforts to secure the release of Hikaka. Chief minister Naveen Patnaik attended a high-level meeting with senior police officers and administration officials on Friday, a day after the Maoists freed its Italian hostage. He also met Hikaka's family members including his mother, wife Kausaliya and children, and assured them that the government will do its best for his release.
Behera reportedly said in the meeting that steps are being taken to secure the release of the 23 prisoners on bail, as promised by the government in exchange for the release of the MLA.
Hikaka's wife Kausaliya had earlier appealed to the government to insure the safe release of her husband.
"It has been 20 days since he was abducted. There is no news of my husband. I appeal to the government for the safe release of my husband as soon as possible," IBNS quoted Hikaka's wife Kausaliya as saying.
She also requested the Maoists to free her husband.
"I request the Maoists to release my husband. I have full faith in them and I am sure they will set my husband free soon," she said, adding, "I would request the Maoists to release my husband and I have full faith that they would do so."
The Andhra Orissa Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) of the Maoists had issued a fresh ultimatum through an audio tape that Hikaka would face consequences if the government doesn't release all the 30 prisoners they have named.
The Odisha government had earlier agreed to release 23 rebels in exchange for the release of Hikaka but the Maoists rejected the swap proposal. The rebels demanded the release of Maoists' top cadre Chenda Bhushanam alias Ghasi and four others namely Gananath Patra, Suna Pangi,
However, sources said that central paramilitary forces engaged in anti-Maoist operations are 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 to release the rebels could embolden them to resort to such activities in the future.
(With input from IBNS)