Bhubaneswar, April 15 (IANS) Maoists in Odisha have set a Wednesday deadline for the government to meet their demands in exchange for the release of ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) legislator Jhina Hikaka whom they have held captive for over 20 days.
A Maoist leader who calls herself Aruna said in a statement sent to some local reporters Sunday that the government has to 29 prisoners in Balipeta village of Koraput district April 18.
The rebels, who initially wanted 30 prisoners to be freed, have also scaled down their demand by not insisting on the release of rebel leader Chenda Bhusanam alias Ghasi, who faces charges of killing more than 55 security personnel.
The new deadline from the rebels came days after the government said it cannot release Ghasi as he faced grievous charges.
Hikaka, the 37-year-old legislator from Laxmipur, was kidnapped by the Andhra-Odisha border special zonal committee of the Communist Party of India-Maoists in Koraput district March 24.
The Maoists had earlier announced an April 10 deadline for the government.
The government had appealed for the legislator's release, but there was no response from the rebels in the past few days.
The people whose release the rebels have sought in exchange for the legislator are mostly members of Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (CMAS), an organization working in the southern parts of the state, including in Malkangiri and Koraput districts, on tribal-related issues.
The rebels said they had been booked on false charges. Police however say the organisation has Maoists support.
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