Laxmipur: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik visited abducted Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MLA Jhina Hikaka's home in Laxmipur on Friday. The visit came 22 days after the MLA was kidnapped by Maoists.
Mr Patnaik on Friday assured the Mr Hikaka's family that the government was doing its best to ensure his return. The VIP visit came amid criticism that the state government was not paying enough attention to the issue of releasing the MLA from Maoist captivity. The Maoists have demanded the release of 30 prisoners in exchange of the MLA.
The Odisha Chief Minister visited Koraput in a desperate bid to explore ways to free the tribal legislator. A day after curtains were drawn on the Italian hostage crisis with the release of Paolo Bosusco, the chief minister flew to Koraput and discussed with local leaders and officials various options to free the Laxmipur MLA.
"I held discussion with MLAs of undivided Koraput district and officials on the need to secure Hikaka's release," Mr Patnaik said on his return from Koraput district, where the 37-year-old MLA was abducted by naxals on March 24.
"Besides MLA's hostage crisis, I also discussed various developmental issues, welfare programmes and problems of the area," Mr Patnaik said, making a fresh appeal to the abductors to release Hikaka immediately and unharmed.
A group of Scheduled Caste people from Narayanpatna gave a memorandum to the chief minister alleging that they have been ousted from the area and sought justice.
The Chief Minister also met the family members of Mr Hikaka at his house in Laxmipur who are in a state of anxiety since the abduction of the first-time MLA by Maoists of Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal committee (AOBSZC).
As the Maoists refused to hold negotiations to resolve the MLA issue through mediators, it has become difficult for the state government to achieve any breakthrough.
"Direct negotiations would have facilitated the process," Home Secretary U N Behera said adding no back channel contact with abductors has been established so far. Whatever information the government is getting from the Maoists is through the media only, Mr Patnaik said.
His visit to the district was significant as AOBSZC ultras have placed demands which are difficult to fulfill and the Chief Minister is keen to concentrate on the release of Hikaka, a senior official said.
"With Italian Bosusco freed by a separate Naxal group yesterday, the state government will now be able to give sufficient time for the resolution of the MLA hostage crisis," he said.
In the absence of any links with Maoists, the chief minister's Koraput visit was seen as an exercise to explore different channels in a bid to facilitate release of Mr Hikaka unharmed as early as possible.
After Mr Bosusco's release, Mr Hikaka's wife Kaushalya once again appealed to Maoists to release her husband immediately without causing any harm, pleading that "he is innocent".
She also expressed hope that the state government would take further steps to free her husband.
Story first published:
April 13, 2012 23:27 IST