There is a growing controversy in Orissa, over the abduction of Jhina Hikaka, the MLA from Laxmipur in Koraput district. Was he kidnapped because a secret deal went bad between the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and a group that the government describes as having Maoist links?
The Chasi Mulya Adivasi Sangh (CMAS) is a quasi-political outfit, with elected members in panchayats. But it has waged campaigns - increasingly violent ones - for tribal rights. This, the police allege, has made them a Maoist front. The SP of Koraput, Awinash Kumar, told NDTV that the Sangh, under the leadership of its President, Nachika Linga, "is involved in various violent activities like killing of various persons in that area."
The Naxals have asked for the release of the CMAS' jailed members, and its president, Nachika Linga, is on the run, facing over 60 cases, ranging from murder to waging war against the state. The police say they have been unable to catch him so far.
But Nachika Linga, who spoke to exclusively to NDTV from a secret location, says despite his group's reputation, the ruling BJD struck a deal with them during the recent Zila Parishad elections. He said, "The understanding was with people like (BJD's Koraput MLA) Jayaram Pangi, (BJD's Jeypore MLA) Ravi Nanda, (BJD's Laxmipur MLA) Jhina Hikaka. They did not honour the agreement."
On March 13, elections were held to the post of Zila Parishad President of Koraput district. Both the Congress and the BJD were evenly poised, with the CMAS holding the deciding vote. On the same date, BJD's Koraput leaders signed a charter of demands addressed to Naveen Patnaik.
The demands included:
- Leniency against CMAS members who are in prison.
- An enquiry into what the police describe as an attack on a police station in the sensitive town of Narayanpur by CMAS activists.
- Action against excess by the police in two of the worst naxal affected blocks of Koraput district.
The signatories include Jayaram Pangi, MP from Koraput, and both MLAs from the district including Jhina Hikaka. When we asked Jayaram Pangi, he denied the charges, saying there was no secret deal, as did Jhina Hikaka.
Mr Pangi said, "We have made no deal with them. We have no agreement with them."
Mr Hikaka too said, "This is not correct. I have no relation with him."
But then what explains a photograph of the CMAS' adviser and key mediator for the Naxals, Dandapani Mohanty holding the letter?
The CMAS said that because of the assurances in the letter, they voted for the BJD.
But Nachika Linga says the BJD showed no sign of fulfilling those assurances. He said, "After we signed the deal with them and voted for them, made them win, they forgot all about us. Nobody listened to us. Forget about meeting the demands, they did not even enter the village."
On March 23, a day before the election to the vice president of the Zila Parishad, Hikaka was abducted, and made to resign.
Many say this could be to allow Nachika Linga to contest the Laxmipur seat , which he has been eyeing for a while. Linga said he is not at all averse to being an MLA, but that it's not easy given his circumstances. Many are asking, by courting the same group that is being pursued by its security forces, has the BJD's political opportunism resulted in black day for electoral democracy.