As the deadline set by two Maoist groups in the twin hostage crisis ends today,the Odisha government seemed to have toughened its stance on their new demands.
The pitch has been queered further since the state police force is also threatening to boycott anti-Naxal operations if hardocre ultras are freed by the government for the release of Italian national Paolo Bosusco and BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka.
Meanwhile,Panda’s wife Subhashree Das alias Mili Panda who the government agreed to release as demanded by Bosusco’s abductors was acquitted today by a Gunupur fast-track court in a case relating to an encounter between Naxals and securitymen at Kutinguda forest in Rayagada district.
Subhashree was set free soon after being acquitted by the court due to lack of evidence,her lawyer Brahmananda Patnaik said.
Hikaka’s abductors want the immediate release of 30 prisoners in exchange for the MLA’s freedom,while the captors of Bosusco want a clarification on the number and names of rebels to be freed.
The state government,however,refused to buckle and toughened its approach as it asked both Maoist groups to move bail pleas for the release of detenues. The state also demanded rebels be physically present to execute the prisoner-hostage swap.
Home Secretary U N Behera said last night the government has agreed to facilitate the release of 23 people,including 15 members of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS),in exchange of the MLA’s freedom.
Since their release from jail involved a judicial process of bail by courts concerned,the detainees have to file bail applications,Behera said. Behera has led the three-member government side in talks with Maoist-named mediators for Bosusco’s release.
The Maoists have also suggested the MLA’s wife bring the released rebels to Balipeta village in Koraput to get Hikaka. Behera said: ”It is advised steps be taken on behalf of the 23 detainees to file their bail petitions.”
Asserting the government is committed on the release of prisoners,he said,”We hope the captors will release the two hostages immediately,unharmed and in good health.”
On why Bosusco’s abductors should ask the government to clarify the number of ultras being freed,Behera wondered whether rebel chief Sabyasachi Panda had not got the final list of those to be released.
The state government has asked Maoist-named mediators B D Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty to send a copy of the list signed by the government and mediators to Panda,the secretary of the Odisha State Organising Committee of Maoists.
The government had earlier sought the opinion of the police on releasing hardcore ultras,including Chenda Bhusanam alias Ghasi,who is accused in killing at least 55 police personnel.
“We will oppose tooth and nail any move to free hardcore Maoists. If necessary,we will launch a vigorous agitation to prevent their release,” Odisha Police Association President Sawarmal Sharma told reporters.
If the situation warrants,police personnel would be forced to pull out of anti-Maoist operations,Sharma said,adding sacrifices made by the police would go in vain and the force would be demoralised if hardcore ultras were freed.
Sending a similar warning,Odisha Constable,Havildar and Sepoy Mahasangha said police personnel would boycott anti-Maoist operations if hardcore ultras are set free.
“We have sought police opinion on whether fresh demands made by the MLA’s abductors can be met,” Chief Secretary B K Patnaik told reporters here,adding legal aspects need to be verified before taking any decision.
Court acquits Maoist leader’s jailed wife
Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda’s wife Subhashree Das was today set free after being acquitted by a fast-track court here due to lack of evidence in a shootout case in Odisha’s Raigada district.
Gunupur Additional District judge B Pratap Chandra Patnaik,who had earlier reserved the verdict,acquitted Subhashree alias Mili Panda due to lack of evidence.
Subhashree was arrested and sent to jail in 2010. She was accused of involvement in the exchange of fire between Maoists and security forces in Kutinguda forest of Gudari area in 2003.
The development is significant because Maoists had set her release as one of their several demands in return for the release of abducted Italian national Paolo Bosusco.
Bosusco was taken hostage by the CPI(Maoist) faction led by Sabyasachi Panda.
Subhashree,who had been first arrested in a case relating to Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in January,2010,was acquitted by the high court in September 2011.
However,she was again arrested in connection with the Kutinguda encounter case.