While MLA waits for government rescue, released hostage is ready with book idea
Paolo Bosusco wants to write about his experience as a hostage, Jhina Hikaka's release remains uncertain and families of released prisoners unhappy with bail
On one hand Paolo Bosusco is ready to write a book on his experiences of being held hostage by a Maoist group, and on the other Biju Janata Dal MLA Jhina Hikaka's release still remains an uncertainty. To add to this mix, unsatisfied with the bail offer the families of the 30 prisoners have started a Dharna at Baiapeth to demand that the prisoners be released permanently.
Hikaka's release is likely to be delayed further as the government was yet to take a decision on the latest demand of his abductors — release of five more persons. “The government has not taken any decision yet on the demand,” Home secretary UN Behera told Tehelka.com. Behera said bail petitions should be moved on behalf of the other prisoners who the government had promised to release according to the Maoists’ demands. The family members of those 30 prisoners, however, are sitting on a dharna from at Balipeta demanding that the 30 people be freed and not just released on bail. “Police have arrested them without any offence and are torturing our families. When they are innocent why should they settle for bail? Even after the bail, where we will get the money to pay the lawyer, court fees and travel allowances to attend court again and again?” said a relative on conditions of anonymity.
Fifty four-year-old Paolo Bosusco, is ready to go back to his family. “I am leaving Odisha, my favourite place but before I go I have a special request to the Chief Minister of Odisha, “please order a special investigation into the case of Arati Majhee. Give justice to Arati and spread the truth,” said Bosusco. While some may call this a case of Stockholm syndrome where hostages empathise with their abductors, according Bosusco Odisha, where he had stayed for 22 years, had been his second home. Bosusco said the Maoists spoke to him on various socio-economic issues, but he does not accept their path of violence. Surviving on a daily diet of rice, dal with curried plantains and unripe papayas, Bosusco lost 10 kg. He suffered two bouts of malaria, and recalled how the Maoist rebels, who carried blood testing kits with them, examined him, and treated him for Malaria. Bosusco was allowed to listen to Odia news four times a day. Sabyasachi Panda, the Maoist commander, even showed him an Italian movie on his laptop.
Bosusco was blind-folded only on the first day but was made to walk long distances in the forest everyday as the Maoists changed their hideouts frequently. They mostly stayed at hilltops. The heavily armed group of 21 came close to encountering another outfit twice. This was Sabyasachi’s one fear, recalled Bosusco.
While Italian regrets that his career as a travel guide is now over, he is hoping that vivid memories of sleeping with a gun for a pillow, long treks in the jungle and eating with Maoists during the 29 days he was hostage charts another career path. Bosusco will now write a book into on his experiences with the Maoists. “They are not bad people. They behaved properly with me and even risked their security to bring fruits for me from the market,” said Bosusco. "I never felt I was a hostage. They fed me bread while their cadres ate rice,” he added. He said the Maoists also tried to impress their ideology onto him. "We often debated issues. I am happy at being released, but am also sad as they will continue to struggle for their cause," he said. Bosusco added that he was in a hurry to return to Turin where his 89-year-old father, Azeglio and 55-year-old sister Vanna were waiting.
Government weighs options, future uncertain for Hikaka
The Odisha state government has decided to release 23 prisoners of the list of 30 demanded by the Maoists
MLA Jinna Hikaka was abducted by Maoists on 24 March
The hostage crisis surrounding BJD MLA Jhina Hikaka in Odisha continues even after the Italian tour operator Paolo Bosusco was released by the Red rebels on Thursday. Hikaka was abducted by the Maoists on March 24 while he was on his way home to Laxmipur after attending a meeting in Koraput. Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) claimed responsibility of Hikaka’s abduction.
With Italian Bosusco's release, the state government will solely focus on Hikaka’s case. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Friday flew to Maoist-infested Koraput district where the 37-year-old tribal MLA has been held captive by the Maoist group AOBSZC since March 24.
Patnaik held a meeting in Koraput with political leaders from the district and senior officials to review the situation arising out of the BJD legislator's abduction. Among those present in the meeting were ST/SC minister Lal Bihari Himirika, Koraput MP, MLAs from Koraput and Jeypore and other BJD districts leaders.
Patnaiks’s visit, during which he held discussion mainly with local leaders, was aimed at exploring different channels to facilitate the release of Hikaka unharmed as early as possible.
Even though the government is not willing to meet the Maoists' demand to release 30 prisoners including Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha leader Chenda Bhusanam alias Ghasi, some solution is likely to emerge, sources indicated.
The state government, which has decided to release 23 prisoners, including 15 members of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha (CMAS) and eight Maoists, wants bail petitions to be moved on behalf of these prisoners in the courts.
The Maoists belonging to the AOBSZC have warned that they would be compelled to decide the fate of Hikaka in a 'praja' court (people's court) if the government delay fulfilling their demands.
Hikaka's wife Kaushalya once again appealed to the Maoists to release her husband immediately without causing any harm, pleading his innocence. During his visit on Friday, the CM expressed his will to visit the family of the abducted MLA.
Reliable sources told Tehelka that the government as its last resort is now trying to negotiate with the Maoists through the banned outfit CMAS.
The AOBSZC Maoists on April 10 demanded Hikaka's wife to reach Balipeta in Narayanpatna along with 30 freed rebels and two interlocutors Dandapani Mohanty and Dr BD Sharma and Nihar Patnaik, a Koraput based Lawyer.
Mohanty and Sharma, however, said that they had no information about this. “As per the AOBSZ Maoist leader’s information, when government of Odisha is not ready to release the 30 prisoners, the AOBSZ leaders are not ready for any further discussion. So Hikaka’s release will depend on the AOBSZ leaders. Both the Italian nationals released by the Maoists on the humanitarian ground. I can say anything now,” said Mohanty. Sources told TEHELKA that Hikaka was on the Maoist’s most wanted list.
To release Hikaka, the government of Odisha decided to bail out the demanded prisoners but the family members of these people demanded their acquittal.
“Although I have no information on the mediator for release of Hikaka but what I heard from you it is not so easy a process for both the Maoists and the state. It will take long time definitely and nobody is above the law. Maoists cannot bend down the judiciary system. State cannot do anything to violate the legal procedure. Now the 30 rebels are in judicial custody. Through legal process the Public Prosecutor will have to file genuine applications before the court of law to withdraw the cases which are pending against the 30 rebels. If the government wants to do this as soon as possible the state must start the initiative and the Maoists must maintain patience and peace. Then I can think for this swap deal,” said Patnaik.
However, some of the top ranked officers from BSF and CRPF and home ministry officials have not taken in a good mood the state’s decision, their reaction is fight the Left Wing Extremists (LWEs).
As things stand today, there are five battalions of Border Security Force, eight battalions of Central Reserve Police Force, four Odisha Special Security Battalions, one unit of Odisha Special Strike Force besides six battalions of India Reserve Battalion, at least 5,000 Special Police Officers and 59 teams of Special Operation Group (SOG) and the anti-Naxal force of the government stationed in the state.
“What is the point in having such a huge contingent to fight the Left ultras when the government will release them at the drop of the hat,” wondered an officer. In this critical juncture of Hikaka’s situation, Odsiha finds itself in a tangle of controversy amidst hope.