As the deadline set by two Maoist groups in the twin hostage crisis ends on Tuesday, the Odisha government seemed to have toughened its stance vis-a-vis their new demands.
The pitch has been queered further by the threat of the state police to boycott anti-Naxal operations if hardcore ultras are freed by the government as per a deal to release Biju Janata Dal MLA Jhina Hikaka and Italian Paolo Bosusco.
Meanwhile, Panda's wife Subhashree Das alias Mili Panda, whose release the abductors of Bosusco had demanded and the government also agreed to, was acquitted by a Gunupur fast track court in a case relating to an encounter between Naxals
and securitymen at Kutinguda forest in Rayagada district.
Subhashree was set free soon after being acquitted by the court due to lack of evidence, her lawyer Brahmananda Patnaik said.
The fresh demand made by the abductors of Hikaka is immediate release 30 prisoners in exchange for the MLA's freedom, while the captors of Bosusco wanted a clarification on the number and names of rebels to be freed.
The state government, however, refused to buckle and toughened its approach as it asked both Maoist groups to move bail pleas for quick release of detenus instead of seeking their immediate release and physical presence for executing the prisoner-hostage swap.
Home Secretary U N Behera said on Monday night that the government has agreed to facilitate the release of 23 persons, including 15 members of Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha, in exchange of MLA's freedom.
Since their release from jail involved a judicial process of grant of bail by courts concerned, the detainees have to file bail applications, said Behera, who had led the three-member government side in talks with Maoist-named mediators for release of Bosusco.
On the Maoists' suggestion that the MLA's wife should go to Balipeta village in Koraput district with the detainees of CMAS and CPI (Maoist) for hand-over of Hikaka, Behera said, "It is advised that steps be taken on behalf of the 23 detainees to file their bail petitions."