Hours after the abduction of Laxmipur MLA Jhina Hikaka, Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has rushed state Revenue and Disaster Management Minister S N Patro and ST and SC Development Minister Lal Bihari Himirika to the area.
Hikaka was returning home from Koraput when more than 50 armed rebels stopped his vehicle near Toyaput where the road had been dug up and a truck had blocked the way, Koraput Superintendent of Police Avinash Kumar said. While the personal security officer (PSO) and driver of the MLA were allowed to leave by the ultras who snatched away their mobile phones, Hikaka was taken away into the nearby forest, about 40 km from here at gunpoint, he said.
The incident happened hours after Patnaik appealed to the rebels to desist from violence.
Amidst uproar by opposition members protesting the abduction in the state assembly, Patnaik, who reviewed the situation at a meeting with top officials, said in a statement in the House that “At approximately 1 AM this morning, MLA from Laxmipur Jhina Hikaka was abducted near Toyaput on Koraput-Laxmipur road.”
While no group has yet claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, it is suspected to have been done by Maoists, he said, adding senior police officials have rushed to the spot. “While I spoke to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram about the abduction of the MLA, the chief secretary spoke to the Union Home Secretary,” Patnaik told reporters. The abducted MLA's wife, Kaushalya has appealed to the kidnappers to release her husband unharmed, saying he had been working for the welfare of tribals.
On the Italian hostage crisis, the chief minister said the negotiations would continue to resolve the issue. “However, we will be urgently handling the abduction of the MLA that took place this morning,” he said. The issue rocked the state assembly which plunged into turmoil as opposition Congress and BJP members trooped into the well and shouted slogans against the government slamming it for the deteriorating law and order.
The house was adjourned till 12:30 amidst pandemonium with the opposition members trying to climb the speaker's podium and voicing concern over safety of elected representatives.
The PSO and driver Urgrasen, who had informed the Laxmipur police station about the incident, said a large number of armed rebels had surrounded the vehicle after stopping it.
“They took away my mobile phone and that of the PSO before asking us to leave,” he said, adding “they also asked us to tell people that Maoists had abducted the MLA.”
In protest against Hikaka's abduction, local residents in the area staged a demonstration and blocked the Koraput-Laxmipur road demanding his immediate release.
The abduction came 10 days after the Maoists took two Italians hostage from Kandhamal district on March 14 and talks were in progress between rebel-nominated negotiators and government representatives to resolve the crisis.
Maoist negotiators engaged to end the Italian hostage crisis - B D Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty - have appealed to the Maoists to release the legislator without delay. Meanwhile, the Maoists have given a call for ‘Bharat Bandh' demanding among other things a halt to green hunt operations against them and release of a large number of people booked on charge of being rebels.
Posters listing these demands and seeking support for the shut-down were also found at the site of abduction of the legislator, police said.