Bhubaneswar, Apr 19: The fate of abducted BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka was unknown today after Maoists carried out their threat to produce him before a ‘people's court', ignoring the Odisha government's offer of freeing prisoners after the deadline to meet their demands ended.
The 37-year-old tribal legislator, who was kidnapped on March 24 from Koraput district by the Maoist Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC), was produced before a ‘praja court' at a remote place in Narayanpatna area in the same district, lawyer Nihar Ranjan Patnaik, who fights cases for the rebels, said.
The lawyer said that tribals had been called to the ‘praja court' by the Maoists, but had no idea when the proceedings would be completed or what the verdict would be.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik who returned to state capital from Delhi, made a fresh appeal to the Maoists to release Hikaka who completed 27 days in captivity. He said that the first time legislator's family was worried about him.
Hikaka's wife, Kausalya Majhi, offered prayers at the Sai temple at Laxmipur in Koraput district for the safety of her husband.
The MLA had last spoken over telephone with with Chief Secretary B K Patnaik and Koraput district Collector Sachin Ramachandra Jadav on April 17 informing them that he was in good health.
Home Secretary U N Behera said seven bail petitions had so been made by Maoist frontal organisation Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha, of which five were granted bail while that of two others were under process.
“It is hoped that the state government's announcement of withdrawing cases against 13 prisoners must have reached the Maoists,” Behera said.
While the Maoists have demanded release of 29 rebels, the state government said it was still examining the matter relating to CMAS advisor Gananath Patra and three others.
The praja court was held a day after the deadline set by the Maoists for fulfilment of their demands expired at 5 pm yesterday.
The state government had yesterday announced after the passage of the deadline that it was ready to withdraw cases against 13 prisoners, including five Maoists, as demanded.
The Maoists had made clear that the deadline had been extended four times in the past and would not be extended any further.
The ultras had dropped the name of hardcore Maoist Chenda Bhusanam alias Ghasi, accused in the killing of 55 policemen, from the list of rebels sought to be freed in exchange for the legislator.
Ghasi, in a message appealed to the Maoists to release the MLA on humanitarian grounds without causing him any harm.
Earlier in the day, the Supreme Court issued notice to the Centre and Odisha government on a petition seeking to restrain release of jailed Maoists in exchange for the MLA.
The chief minister, however, indicated that his government would not change its decision to withdraw cases against the Maoists.
“The Supreme Court has not put any stay on the state government's decision of facilitating bail for jailed extremists ... left wing extremists,” the chief minister said.
Stating that the apex had sought response from the state government within 14 days on a petition seeking to restrain release of jailed Maoists in exchange for the kidnapped MLA, Chief Secretary B K Patnaik said “We are yet to receive the order from the supreme Court. We will respond after receiving the order.”
The petition in the apex court had been filed by Major General (retd) Gangurdeep Bakshi.