Bhubaneswar(IANS): An Italian and an Odisha legislator continued to be in the custody of Maoists Tuesday even as a top rebel’s wife – whose release from jail had been demanded as one of the conditions to set free the hostages – was acquitted by a court.
While the Maoist deadline for the government to meet their demands neared Tuesday evening, Subhashree Das, the wife of rebel leader Sabyasachi Panda, was released by a fast court in Gunpur in Rayagada district, about 250 km from here.
She was acquitted in a 2003 shootout case for lack of evidence, officials said. Subhashree was accused of involvement in the exchange of fire between Maoists and police in Kutingaguda area of the district in 2003.
Her release was sought by the rebels in exchange for Italian Bosusco Paolo who has been held captive by the Maoists since last month. Her husband was behind last month’s abduction of Bosusco and another Italian, who was later released. After her release, however, Subhashree said the government did not have any role in her release. “I was saying from the beginning that I am innocent. Now it has been proved,” she told reporters in Gunpur.
Praising her husband for serving the poor and peasants, she said Sabyasachi was a friend, guide and philosopher for her even though he had to stay away from her. Subhashree was also apprehensive that police may arrest her again in ‘false cases’.
Subhashree, also known as Mili, is one of several prisoners whose freedom was sought by the Maoists group led by her husband in exchange for the release of Paolo. There was no official word on whether the state government facilitated her release. Sabyasachi is also yet to respond on his wife’s release.
Although some believe the release of Subhashree may pave way for the release of the Italian, the fate of Biju Janata Dal legislator Jhina Hikaka who has been kept hostage by another group of rebels since March 24 continued to remain in the dark.
While Paolo was abducted by the Odisha unit of the Communist Party of India-Maoist (CPI-Maoist) from Kandhamal district, Hikaka was kidnapped by the Andhra-Odisha border special zonal committee from Koraput district. Both the groups were more or less making the same demands, which include a ban on tourism in tribal areas, a halt on the state’s operations against Maoists, and the release of several prisoners.
The state government a few days ago announced it would facilitate the release of 23 prisoners, including eight Maoists, to secure the release of Hikaka, and four other prisoners in exchange for the release of the Italian. But the kidnappers of the legislator and the Italian insisted that the government release five and three prisoners respectively, in addition to what the government has announced.