Abductors of Biju Janata Dal legislator Jhina Hikaka on Tuesday fixed April 5 as the deadline for fulfillment of their demands and rejected the Odisha government's
invitation for talks, a day after a similar threat was issued by another Maoist group holding an Italian hostage.
In an audio message to a section of media, Andhra-Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee of Maoists asked the Odisha government to fulfill their demands including release of jailed rebels latest by April 5 for setting free the Laxmipur member of Legislative Assembly unharmed.
Rejecting the state government's proposal to join talks and nominate negotiators, the ultras said in the message that their demands should be met by the set deadline without any "delaying tactics".
In the wake of threats from both the rebel groups holding Hikaka and Italian Paolo Bosusco, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik held an emergency meeting with top officials to take stock of the situation and find ways to resolve the twin hostage crises.
"The whole issue is being examined threadbare in order to decide the future course of action," a senior official said admitting that refusal by the abductors of the BJD legislator to join talks had further complicated the issue.
The message from abductors of 37-year-old Hikaka came a day after captors of Bosusco released an audio tape threatening to take stringent action against the hostage if the government adopts a dillydallying approach towards their demand for immediate release of seven ultras.
Soon after the the tape was released, state government and Maoist-nominated mediators held fresh negotiations on Monday night over the Italian's release.
While the government was represented by Home Secretary U N Behera, Scheduled Caste-Scheduled Tribes Secretary S K Sarangi and Panchayatiraj Secretary P K Jena, the Maoist mediators' were Dandapani Mohanti and B D Sharma.
Hikaka was abducted in Koraput district on March 24, Italians Paolo Bosusco, 54 and Claudio Colangelo, 61, had been taken hostage on March 14 while trekking in Kandhamal.
The Maoists had on March 25 released Colangelo as a "goodwill gesture".
Adding to the woes of the government, leader of the Odisha state organising committee of Communist Party of India-Maoist, Sabyasachi Panda released the audio tape on Monday night demanding immediate release of seven Maoists from jail to facilitate an end to the 19-day hostage crisis involving the foreigner.
Besides his wife Subhashree Das, in jail for over a year, Panda sought release of Arati Majhi, Kamala Kanta Sethi, Jonesh Pradhan, Sujatha, Suka Nachika and Gananath Patra.
"The state government is adopting a dilly-dallying approach to our demands and also planning an operation to release the hostage. The government will be responsible if something wrong happens to the Italian," Panda said in the audio tape.
Supporting Panda's charge, Maoist-nominated mediator Dandapani Mohanty accused the state government of preparing an offensive against the ultras.
Sharma also raised questions on the state government's "examination" on the Maoists' demands for the last one week. He, however, expressed optimism about a peaceful solution to the hostage crisis.
Meanwhile, uncertainty prevailed about the proposed negotiation with Maoist-backed Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh for the release of Hikaka with the Andhra-Odisha border special zonal committee of the Maoists rejecting the proposal for talks.
Though CMAS president Nachika Linga, on the run since 2009, had said the Sangh would join talks if certain conditions were fulfilled, some others associated with the
tribal outfit appeared to be reluctant and now the border zonal committee seemed to have closed such options.
Listing the conditions for joining talks for Hikaka's release, Linga had said in a statement to the media that all cases against him would have to be withdrawn, all jailed CMAS members released and anti-Maoist operations halted.