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Odisha looks for mediator as hostage crisis continues

Orissa,Terrorism, Mon, 23 Apr 2012 IANS

Bhubaneswar, April 23 (IANS) Odisha Monday said it was looking for a mediator to start a dialogue with Maoists holding Biju Janata Dal legislator Jhina Hikaka, who will complete a month in captivity Tuesday.


Stepping up its efforts, the Naveen Patnaik government had contacted several people believed to have access to the rebels during the past few days.


"We are looking for somebody who can mediate with the Maoists. But he should be acceptable to both the government and the rebels," a senior state official told IANS.


The official, who did not want to be identified, said the government was already in touch with some people in Koraput district from where the legislator was abducted March 24.


"But hardly there has been any success. Efforts are still on to find out a person who has access to the guerillas" he said.


Hikaka who represents Laxmipur constituency was kidnapped by the Andhra-Odisha border special zonal committee of the Communist Party of India-Maoist in his home district of Koraput.


The rebels had earlier sought the release of 29 prisoners, mostly members of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangh (CMAS), which works mainly in the southern parts of the state, including Malkangiri and Koraput districts, on tribal-related issues.


The state government had agreed to release 25 of them but the guerillas rejected the offer and announced Hikaka's fate would be decided in a people's court April 25.


The worry of the government increased after a rebel leader few days ago said they now want authorities to release all the members of CMAS.


The left wing extremists did not specify how many members of the organization have been languishing in state jails, and similarly the government was also reluctant to disclose the figure.


State Home Secretary U.N. Behera Monday said names of a total 25 people including eight Maoists have been short-listed by the government and efforts are on to release them.


He said five of them have already been released on bail. Another state official said they have been released only after the government lawyers did not object to their bail petitions.


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