Bhubaneswar: Within hours of Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announcing the names of six Maoists to be released by his government, the rebels who have abducted Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MLA Jhina Hikaka, released an audiotape yesterday demanding the release of five more Naxals from jail.
They also set a fresh deadline of April 10. The Maoists have now demanded the release of their top leader Chenda Bhushanam alias Ghasi, who carries a reward of Rs 10 lakh on his head.
Maoists also demanded the release of four other Chasi Muliya Adivasi Sangh (CMAS) members — Gananath Patra, Suna Pangi, Singa Nachika and Walsi Wadeka.
The ultimatum comes from a rival group that does not accept Maoist ultra Sabyasachi Panda, who abducted Italian national Paolo Bosusco, as its leader. Earlier, Patnaik had strongly refuted Panda’s audio tape claims that demanded the release of six Naxals, out of which the government was facilitating the release of five.
However, later in the day, he announced the names of six Maoists in exchange for the immediate release of Italian hostage and tour operator Paolo Basusco.
On Friday, Panda set a new four-day (96 hour) deadline for the Odisha government to release the seven Naxals that he had named initially.
Patnaik said, “The negotiators from the Maoist side, that is, the mediators for the Sabyasachi (Panda) Group of Maoists had sought the release of six persons — Arti Majhi, Manmohan Pradhan, Suka Nagchika, Chakra Tatdingi, Bijay Tatdingi, Subhashree Das and Mili Panda, wife of Sabyasachi Panda.”
Patnaik further mentioned that five out of the six persons named by the mediators would be released.
He, however, said that the legal process would take some time, and added that the Maoists must reciprocate by releasing the Italian hostage. “Our state is taking the appropriate steps. But as it involves our judicial system, it will take some more time,” he said. “I appeal to the CPI-Maoists to release Busosco and Hikaka,” he added.