Bhubaneshwar (AsiaNews) - Negotiations between the Orissa government and Maoist rebels are at a standstill because of unfulfilled promises. Some members of opposition party accuse the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) of a secret deal with the rebels in exchange for votes in the last elections. When the state government failed to keep its part of the deal, Maoists abducted Jhina Hikaka, the BJD MLA for the Koraput District. For their part, mediators from both sides want Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik to give indications as to which of the 13 rebel demands he is willing to meet in order to get the release of the abducted lawmaker and Italian tourist Paolo Bosusco.
Hikaka was kidnapped last Saturday by the Andhra Odisha Border Special Zone Committee (AOBSZC), a rival Maoist group to the Odisha State Organising Committee (OSOC), which abducted Paolo Bosusco and Claudio Colangelo in Kandhamal District on 14 March. Colangelo was released on Sunday. In exchange for their electoral support, the BJD government was supposed to release three jailed Maoist leaders and put an end to Green Hunt, an anti-Maoist operation.
"Ties between the BJD and the Maoists are not a secret," said Ashok Sahoo, vice president of the Orissa branch of the Hindu ultranationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP).
"This speaks volumes of the government's sincerity to tackle the Maoist menace in the state," said Prasad Harichandan, a senior Congress leader.
According to other members of the opposition, Patnaik also knew about the secret deal.
In the meantime, more people are being abducted in the state and the government is not saying much about it. This is the case of Saira Nayak, who was briefly held yesterday by a group of kidnappers.
His nephew, Keshab Nayak, is a key witness in a trial involving a former village council head, Susant Pradhan, and 27 other council members who were charged with torching a house in Mahaguda village during the 2008 anti-Christian pogroms in Kandhamal.
Yesterday morning, Keshab Nayak and four other people gave evidence in court. After they finished, the accused threatened to kill the witnesses and make their relatives suffer if they did not retract the accusations. Some time later, at 3 pm (local time), Saira Nayak was kidnapped.
His relatives turned to a local judge for help, but all they got was advice to wait. Only when the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) and its lawyers intervened did police act, eventually securing the kidnap victim's release.
However, whilst Saira Nayak's abductors are still free, his nephew Keshab has decided to retract his testimony.
This has pushed GCIC president Sajan George to appeal to Orissa's Justice minister. "Please,", he urged, "protect those who can testify in the Kandhamal pogrom cases".