Sharp differences among Maoists have came to the fore on Sunday with some demanding release of all members of rebel-backed Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS) from jail in return for release of BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka while the others want the fate of the MLA decided at a ‘praja’ court.

“We demand release of all members of CMAS who are in jail now. If Odisha government is interested in freeing the MLA, it must first release all of them,” Srikakulam-Koraput Committee of the CPI (Maoist) leader Daya said in a letter released to a section of the media.

Maintaining that the Maoists were opposed to the government’s policies and approach, the letter in Telugu said the government was “responsible” for the delay in release of the 37-year-old tribal MLA from Laxmipur.

Daya’s letter presented a contradictory stand as it came a day after the Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) of CPI (Maoist) spokesman Jagabandhu in an audio message said the fate of the abducted MLA would be decided at a ‘praja’ court to be held by April 25.

“Daya’s fresh letter is confusing. While Jagabandhu says something, Daya is demanding release of all the CMAS members lodged in jails. We are not sure which is right,” said a state government official engaged in the hostage crisis.

While AOBSZC, whose area of operation is considered to be much broader than Srikakulam-Koraput committee, wants release of 29 jailed rebels, Daya seeks all CMAS members to be freed from prisons, he said.

Moreover, there is no mention about ‘praja’ court in the letter purportedly released by Daya, who is considered much junior to Jagabandhi in the hierarchy of the Maoist outfit, said another official.

Home Secretary U.N. Behera has already made it clear that the state government is ready to facilitate release of 25 jailed rebels and cases against 13 of them would be withdrawn.

Some of the remaining prisoners have also been granted bail.

Another senior official said it was difficult to ascertain whether letters and messages issued by different Naxal leaders were genuine.

“Confusion in this regard has cropped up due to the rigid approach adopted by the Maoists in rejecting the proposal of the state government for talks in order to resolve the MLA hostage crisis,” he said.

He said divergent views are being issued by different Naxal leaders making the situation worse.

Besides making demands which are different from those placed by his senior, Daya has also accused Odisha government of indirectly moving the Supreme Court through a retired army officer to delay the process of release of rebels in exchange of the abducted BJD MLA.

Referring to the PIL filed in the Supreme Court by a retired Major General, Daya claimed it would delay the process of release of the MLA.

He alleged that moving the Supreme Court was a ploy of the state government to delay the process.

Rejecting the state government’s offer of facilitating release of 25 persons, including eight Maoists, to ensure safe release of the MLA, the Maoist leader said they now made it clear that the hostage would be freed only after the state government released all the jailed CMAS members.

CMAS is a frontal organisation of the CPI(Maoist) and active in Naraynpatna block of Koraput district.

“We have held the MLA hostage, but the government has done nothing that can help arrive at a solution and his release,” Daya said.

Daya’s letter which came after AOBSZC’s message was viewed as a sign of differences among Maoist groups. While Srikakulam-Koraput Committee had actually abducted the MLA, the hostage was latter handed over to AOBSZC, sources said.

Srikakulam-Koraput Committee had been working in Naraynpatna and Bandhugaon blocks of Koraput district while AOBSZC was the next higher set up in the organisation of the CPI(Maoist), sources said.