Bhubaneswar: As the Tuesday evening deadline set by Maoists for fulfilment of their demands neared, uncertainty continued over the fate of the Italian and the Odisha legislator being held captive by the rebels since last month.
The government has appealed to the rebels to free the hostages saying it was serious about all of their demands, but the rebels are yet to respond.
The group, which kidnapped Biju Janata Dal legislator Jhina Hikaka March 24, has demanded the release of five more prisoners, including Chenda Bhusanam alias Ghasi, a rebel leader facing charges of killing more then 50 security personnel.
The group had also said Hikaka’s wife should come with all the prisoners named by them to Balipeta village in Koraput district Tuesday along with the two Maoist-backed mediators, Dandapani Mohanty and B.D. Sharma, and local lawyer Nihar Ranjan Patnaik, to receive the legislator.
The rebels had also warned there should be no involvement of police and intelligence wings in this process.
State Home Secretary U.N. Behera Sunday evening said the detainees named by the kidnappers will have to file their bail petitions in the respective courts for bail and the process takes time.
Similarly, the group holding captive Italian tour operator Bosusco Paolo since March 14 has demanded the release of three more prisoners and asked the government to clarify its stand on their 13 demands.
The latest demands come even as the government a few days ago announced it would facilitate the release of 23 prisoners, including eight Maoists, to secure the release of Hikaka, and four other prisoners in exchange for the release of the Italian.
Paolo was abducted by the Odisha unit of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) from Kandhamal district. Hikaka was kidnapped by the Andhra-Odisha border special zonal committee from Koraput district.
Both the groups have asked the government to fulfill 13 demands, including a ban on tourism in tribal areas, a halt on the state’s operations against Maoists, and the release of several prisoners.
The Odisha police officers’ association has objected to the release of any hard core Maoist. Its president, Sabarmal Sharma, said police may decide on non-cooperation with the government in anti-Maoist operations if any such move is taken.