With the Maoists firm on their demands and determined to keep Biju Janata Dal Member of Legislative Assembly Jhina Hikaka hostage till April 25, the Odisha government on Saturday said it would welcome anyone volunteering to negotiate with them.
"Right from the beginning, we have been requesting the CPI - Maoist to name a negotiator for talks for the release of the MLA. If anyone comes forward to negotiate, the government will welcome it," Home Secretary U N Behera told reporters.
The statement came after the Maoist Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee said in a message that the fate of the MLA would be decided at a praja court by April 25.
They decided to hold another praja court as the one conducted on Thursday failed to arrive at a decision.
There was no information where and when the next praja court would be held, Koraput-based lawyer Nihar Ranjan Patnaik, who fights cases for Maoists and its front Chasi
Mulia Adivasi Sangha, said.
"It has been decided to release 25 perople and withdraw cases against 13 of them. Five people have so far been released from the jail," Behera said, pointing out that only two days were left for completion of a month since Hikaka was abducted from Koraput district on March 24.
The Maoists have stuck to their demand for the release of 29 rebels after dropping charges against them, rejecting the state's offer to withdraw cases against 13 prisoners, including five Maoists, and facilitating the release of 12 others on bail.
The Maoist have also called a two-day bandh since Friday and blocked roads in their stronghold of Narayanpatna in Koraput district, demanding withdrawal of security forces, halt to operation Green Hunt and release of jailed ultras.
Roads to Narayanpatna were dug up and blocked by felling trees, with the Maoists setting fire to a mobile tower at Bandhugaon area on Friday night.
The extremists torched some vehicles at a construction site in Semiliguda area, police sources said.
The rebels also announced that a 'protest week' would be observed from April 24 in Odisha and Chhattisgarh in protest against operation Green Hunt.
Meanwhile, Hikaka's wife Kausalya Majhi offered prayers at a temple at Laxmipur for the safety of her husband.
The MLA had last spoken over telephone with Chief Secretary B K Patnaik and Koraput District Collector Sachin Ramachandra Jadav on April 17, informing them that he was in good health.