Bhubaneswar(PTI): Odisha’s police force on Monday threatened to boycott anti-Naxal operations if hardcore Maoists are freed by the state government in a bid to end the twin hostage crisis which escalated with the abductors setting new demands before their deadline expires on Tuesday.
Adding to the woes of the government, the Odisha Police Association(OPA) warned it will skip duties in Naxal affected areas while making it clear it will oppose “tooth and nail” any move to set free hardcore Maoists like Chenda Bhusanam alias Ghasi, an accused in the killing of at least 55 security personnel.
With the abductors of MLA Jhina Hikaka and Italian Paolo Bosusco placing new demands, an early release of the duo also appeared uncertain.
While the release of the Laxmipur BJD MLA became uncertain with the Maoists demanding immediate swap with 30 prisoners, another group of Naxals holding the Italian tour guide asked the state government to clarify how many ultras it would free.
As the deadline set by both the groups for meeting their demands ends on Tuesday, the state government sought opinion of the police on the release of hardcore Maoists, including Bhusanam , as sought by the abductors.
“We will oppose tooth and nail any move to free hardcore Maoists. If necessary, we will launch a vigorous agitation to prevent their release,” OPA President Sawarmal Sharma told reporters.
If the situation warrants, the police personnel would be forced to pull out of anti-Maoist operations and boycott duty in the Naxal-affected areas, Sharma said, adding sacrifices made by police would go in vain if hardcore ultras are freed. The state government is weighing various options on any release of the ultras.
“We have sought opinion of the police on whether the fresh demands made by abductors of the MLA can be met,” chief secretary B K Patnaik told reporters here, adding the legal aspects need to be verified before taking any decision.
A day after the Maoists holding the 37-year-old MLA hostage asked his wife to reach a village in Koraput district tomorrow along with 30 freed prisoners for release of Hikaka, the state government today remained tight-lipped on the issue.
In a letter to the media on Monday night, Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee of Maoists not only sought immediate release of more prisoners, but also their physical presence for the MLA’s release.
The ultras wanted Hikaka’s wife Kaushalya to reach Balipeta in the Naxal-hit Narayanpatna area tomorrow along with 30 rebels, including 23 people whose release the Odisha government had decided to facilitate and seven more rebels.
The letter said the MLA’s wife should also be accompanied by two Naxal-nominated mediators — B D Sharma and Dandapani Mohanty — engaged in the Italian hostage crisis and Koraput-based lawyer Nihar Ranjan Patnaik.
One of the Maoist-nominated mediators B D Sharma had, meanwhile, left the state capital for Delhi.
The Maoists said they would hand over the abducted MLA to them, provided they do not bring along any police or intelligence official.
The letter came a day after the Maoists extended the deadline for fulfilment of their demands till April 10. They had initially fixed April 5 as deadline and then extended it till April 7.
As the the twin-hostage crises turned murkier, Opposition Congress and BJP hit out at the BJD government accusing it of failing to resolve the issue.
While Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee president Niranjan Patnaik dubbed the government as “ineffective and weak”, BJP leader B B Harichandan accused it of failing to work in the larger interest of the people.