The fate of abducted Odisha legislator Jhina Hikaka continues to remain uncertain after three weeks of captivity, even as the Maoists on Sunday extended the deadline till April 18 for fulfilment of their demands for his release.
In a communication issued to the media in Koraput district, the Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee of the CPI (Maoist) said the government should free 29 persons by April 18 evening in exchange for Mr. Hikaka.
The abductors also brought down the number of persons they wanted released by the Naveen Patnaik government from 30 to 29 — dropping the name of Ghasi, a Maoist cadre alleged to be involved in cases.
The 29 include 23 whose release the State government had agreed to facilitate in swap for Mr. Hikaka, two to be traded for Italian citizen Bosusco Paolo — who had since been freed by another group of Maoists, and four others.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who left for New Delhi to attend a meeting of Chief Ministers on internal security, told journalists he was aware of the extension of the deadline by the Maoists.
Meanwhile, State Home Secretary U.N. Behera told journalists no decision had been taken on freeing the four, whose release Mr. Hikaka's abductors had demanded along with that of Ghasi. Mr. Behera expressed the hope that bail petitions would be moved on behalf of those whose release the government had agreed to facilitate.
Making things difficult for the government, activists of the Narayanpatna-based Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha said they would not file bail petitions for the release of their men as they did not have enough money to pay to the lawyers.
Claiming that their activists had been falsely implicated in different cases, hundreds of tribals who held a meeting in Narayanpatna during the day along with the family members of the under-trials whose release the government had agreed to facilitate, demanded that the cases be immediately withdrawn.