MAOIST leader Sabyasachi Panda has rejected the list of 27 Maoists and their sympathisers that Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had promised to free to secure the release of BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka and Italian tour operator Paolo Basusco. Refusing to free Basusco,Panda has given the government 96 hours to fulfil all his demands,including Maoists other than those the government had listed.
With the government agreeing to set free eight of their comrades and 19 supporters yesterday,hopes had been rekindled regarding the release of Basusco,55,and Hikaka,37,who have been in Maoist captivity since March 14 and 23 respectively.
Incidentally,the Koraput-Srikakulam Divisional Committee of the CPI (Maoists) that abducted Hikaka is yet to respond to the government offer.
In an audio tape released today,Panda warned that he would be compelled to take extreme steps unless the government agreed to release the seven persons demanded by his group,and said Orissa could draw international condemnation were anything to happen.
In his original wishlist,Panda,the secretary of the Orissa State Organising Committee,had demanded the release of seven,including his wife Subhasree Das. However,the government did not agree to release Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh advisor Gananath Patra,Kamalakanta Sethi or Sudarshan Mandal. While Patra is a diabetic and has bad eyesight,he is considered a hardcore Maoist ideologue whom the government is wary of releasing.
We had placed some democratic demands… The demands included freeing prisoners held under fabricated charges,legal action against police officials involved in corruption and rape of innocents,and lifting ban on political and mass organisations… We had demanded that the government should provide detailed information regarding the number of persons to be released immediately and about other prisoners to be freed later. But the government had announced… the release of only four while the Maoists had given seven names. Even the name of the fourth person apart from that of Subhashree Das,Arati Majhi and the brother of Nachika Linga (chief of pro-Maoist organisation Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh) is not clear, Panda said.
He also accused the government of paying more importance to the rebels who had abducted the MLA. The government it seemed attached more importance to those who ignore democratic talks, he said,referring to the Maoists of the Koraput-Srikakulam Divisional Committee that has all along spurned government offers for talks on Hikakas release.
Earlier in the day,the two Maoist interlocutors,B D Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty,who held a meeting with Orissa Home Secretary U N Behera,too said the government needed to clarify the word facilitate. It can mean anything. The government should make clear how it will facilitate the release (of the Maoists), Sharma and Mohanty said.
Regarding the MLA,there is no word. Sources said the Maoists who have abducted Hikaka are likely to hold a meeting in the forests of Narayanpatna block of Koraput before deciding on his release. They have set a deadline of April 7 for the government to meet their demands.