Maoists set Thursday deadline for abducted Odisha legislator

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Maoists holding ruling Biju Janata Dal lawmaker Jhina Hikaka for the past 10 days in Odisha on Tuesday gave an April 5 deadline to the state government to fulfill their demands.

This was conveyed through an audio message from a rebel leader who named himself 'Chandramouli' and claimed to be the secretary of the Andhra-Odisha border special zonal committee of Communist Party of India-Maoist.

The audio message was received by several journalists in state capital Bhubaneswar.

Accusing the government of arresting several activists of Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (CMAS) on false charges in Koraput and Malkangiri districts, the rebel leader asked the government to release all the people.

Rejecting any negotiation on the matter, he said "We are giving the government April 5 deadline." The rebel leader however did not name the people whose release his group is demanding.

The CMAS is an organization working in the southern parts of the state, including in the districts of Malkangiri and Koraput on tribal related issues. Police say the organization has Maoist support.

Hikaka, who represents Laxmipur constituency in the assembly, was abducted by the rebels from a hilly area of Koraput district March 24.

Similarly there has been no progress on the release of Italian tour operator Bosusco Paolo, 54, who has been in the captivity of a separate group of Maoists since March 14.

Paolo was abducted along with another Italian, Claudio Colangelo, 61, from a forested area on the border of Ganjam and Kandhamal districts. The rebels March 25 released Colangelo in a "goodwill gesture".

Sabyasachi Panda, a rebel leader known as Sunil and who has claimed responsibility for the abduction of the Italians, Monday night demanded release of some people arrested for Maoist activities.

In a separate audio message that was aired by television channels he cited several names which include his wife Subhashree Panda, Gananath Patra, a leader fighting for tribal rights, and a tribal woman Arati Majhi who the rebels say was raped by security forces two years ago.

Accusing the government of preparing to launch a police operation against the Maoists, he said: "If such a thing happens, the life of the Italian will be under threat."

The rebel leader, who claims he is the secretary of the state organizing committee of the Communist Party of India-Maoist, also wants a written assurance from the government.

The response from the rebels came two days after two Maoist-backed mediators appealed to them to release the Italian.

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