He hopes abductors would reciprocate the humane gesture

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Thursday announced the names of 27 persons whose release the government will facilitate through legal steps to ensure the release of Biju Janata Dal MLA Jhina Hikaka and Italian tour operator Bosusco Paolo from the hands of the Maoists.

Of the 27 persons, the government will facilitate the release of 15 members of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS) and eight Maoists from different jails for the release of Mr. Hikaka, and four others for the release of Mr. Paolo.

The four persons who would be released for securing Mr. Paolo's freedom include Subhashree Das alias Mili Panda, wife of Sabyasachi Panda, secretary of the Odisha State Organising Committee of Communist Party of India (Maoist).

Making the statement in the State Assembly, Mr. Patnaik said the government made this gesture on humane grounds. He expressed hope that the Maoists would reciprocate and release Mr. Hikaka and Mr. Paolo immediately.

Mr. Patnaik had on Wednesday announced his government's decision to facilitate the release of 27 persons after the abductors of Mr. Hikaka fixed April 5 as the deadline for the government to fulfil their demands, and the abductors of Mr. Paolo asked the government to fulfil the demands instead of playing delaying tactics.

The MLA had been kidnapped by the Maoists belonging to the Srikakulam-Koraput Division of the CPI (Maoist) on March 24, while Mr. Paolo had been kidnapped by the Odisha State Committee of the outlawed party on March 14, along with Italian tourist Claudio Colangelo. The Maoists, however, had released Mr. Colangelo on March 25 as a goodwill gesture.

The eight Maoists whose release will be facilitated by the government are Narsi Kendruka, Joruka Kendruka, Deba Madhi, Ganga Sodi, Bhima Padiami, Mangaraj Darua, and a married couple from Andhra Pradesh, Murla Neelam Reddy and Setu Pangi.

The 15 members of the CMAS are Rupuni Sirika, Miniaka Sandal, Miniaka Jama, Saura Kartasia, Nachika Suba, Wadeka Diba, Rabi Tadingi, Dhana Hantal, Dora Hantal, Ramesh Nachika, Huluku Kesaba, Ina Tadingi, Rupana Huluka, Argu Sirika and Bijay Tadingi.

Apart from Ms. Panda, the three whose release will be facilitated to secure Mr. Paolo's freedom are Arati Majhi, Suka Nachika and Chakra Tadingi.

The response of the two Maoist groups to Mr. Patnaik's announcement was not known immediately.

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