Uncertainty resurfaced over the release of abducted Laxmipur member of Legislative Assembly Jhina Hikaka on April 18 on Monday, as the Maoists and their front group Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha refused to seek bail and asked the Odisha government to withdraw cases against them.
"We will not file bail petitions in the court as the government may again arrest our members after MLA's hostage crisis is over. The government should instead withdraw cases," said CMAS president Nachika Linga after addressing a rally in Bandhugaon area in Koraput district.
The state government, which had already named 25 persons comprising 17 from CMAS and 8 members of the Communist Party of India-Maoist, was hopeful that they would apply for bail in order to get released from jail by 5 pm of April 18, the deadline set by the abductors of the MLA.
"The state government will again advise for filing of bail petitions for 17 CMAS members and 8 Maoists immediately for quick release of the detainees," said P K Jena, panchayati raj secretary, one of the three government negotiators.
While Jena said the government had no clear information on the number of persons who applied for bail on Monday, Chief Secretary B K Patnaik claimed that four of the 25 people have so far submitted their bail applications.
Sources, however, said that the four CMAS members had applied for bail prior to abduction of the MLA on March 24.
"According to my information, none from the 25 people have applied for bail so far. The state government has said it will facilitate release of 25 people," CMAS and Maoist advocate Nihar Ranjan Patnaik said.
Unless the state government takes steps to withdraw cases against the UTPs under section 321 of CrPC, they cannot be released, Patnaik said, adding he had already communicated this matter to the district collector and the deputy inspector general.
Stating that Maoists have already extended deadline four times, Patnaik felt this time they could take an extreme step if the demands are not met.
Rejecting the advocate's views, Koraput district collector J S Ramachandra said four of the 25 people have already sought bail and he was hopeful the rest would move petition by Wednesday.
Meanwhile, CMAS co-advisor Dandapani Mohanty suggested that Hikaka's wife Kausalya Majhi stage a dharna in front of Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik's residence demanding complete withdrawal of cases against members of CMAS and Maoists to ensure safe release of her husband.
"I have suggested to the MLA's wife to stage dharna before the CM's residence," Mohanty told reporters after attending a meeting of CMAS at Bandhugaon.
Unable to make any headway in convincing the rebels to adopt the bail route, the state government made a fresh appeal to the Maoists to release the 37-year-old tribal legislator.
"The state government once again appeals to the Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee of the CPI-Maoist to release Hikaka while the process for release of 25 members is on," Jena said.
The state government was earlier hopeful that the MLA could be released on April 18 as the Maoists had dropped the name of hardcore ultra Chenda Bhusanam alias Ghasi from the list of their 30 jailed associates and extended the deadline.
"It appears from the fresh message of the Maoists that they will release the MLA on April 18" as the Maoists are no longer demanding that Chenda Bhusanam alias Ghasi, accused of killing at least 55 policemen, be freed, home secretary U N Behera had said. Behera had also assured the rebels that the government would provide assistance to facilitate the release of 29 prisoners.
In view of extension of the deadline, he said it was necessary that bail petitions for 15 members of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh and eight Maoists were filed immediately.
The Maoists have stuck to their condition for a prisoner-hostage exchange. They have demanded that the MLA's wife Kaushalya and lawyer Nihar Patnaik to accompany the 29 freed cadres to Balipeta in the Naxal hotbed of Narayanpatna area in Koraput district for freeing Hikaka.
Under the circumstances, it might turn out to be difficult for the government to arrange physical presence of the freed prisoners at Balipeta.