Bhubaneswar, April 13 (IANS) Odisha Friday said it is speeding up the process to secure the release of Biju Janata Dal legislator Jhina Hikaka who has been held hostage by Maoists for the past 20 days.
Home Secretary U.N. Behera said steps are being taken for the release of 23 prisoners on bail, a promise the government made a few days ago in order to secure the release of the 37-year-old legislator from Laxmipur.
The government is holding talks with the lawyers of the prisoners to speed up the process, Behera told reporters.
The Andhra-Odisha border special zonal committee of the Communist Party of India-Maoist kidnapped the legislator in the district of Koraput March 24.
The group has been demanding the release of a total 30 people, including Chenda Bhusanam alias Ghasi, a rebel leader facing charges of killing more then 55 security personnel.
While the release of Ghasi is not possible as he has been facing grievous charges, the government has not taken any decision yet on other prisoners whose release was demanded later, he added.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik Friday flew to the district headquarters town of Koraput, about 500 km from here and met the family members of Hikaka and told them about the steps the government has taken to secure his early release.
Patnaik also held discussions with officials and the leaders of his party to find out ways to end the crisis.
Patnaik, and the hostage's family have appealed to the rebels to release Hikaka unharmed as early as possible. The rebels have however so far not responded to the latest government initiative or to the appeals.