In exchange for an Italian and an MLA, the Odisha government will release 27 prisoners, including eight Naxals. The hostages are being held by two rival factions of Naxals. Here are 10 big facts on this story:
The Italian, Paolo Basusco, was kidnapped on March 14 along with another Italian, who was released to journalists on March 25. Basusco remains in Naxal custody in Kandhamal.
Jhina Hikaka, an MLA from the ruling BJD party, was taken hostage on March 25. He is being kept about 400 kilometres or a 10-hour drive from Basusco.
The MLA's captors had set today, April 5, as the deadline for the release of many prisoners. If that didn't happen, they had warned that the government would be responsible for the consequences.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik told the Odisha Assembly last night that 27 prisoners will be released. He appealed to the Naxals not to harm either the MLA or the Italian. 23 people are being freed in exchange for the MLA; another four will be released from prison for the Italian hostage.
The Naxals holding the Italian are headed by Sabysachi Panda. A rival faction called the Andhra Odisha Border Special Committee has custody of the MLA. It is headed by a man named Rama Krishna also known as RK. While Panda and the government have been negotiation via mediators, the group holding the MLA had refused to have any talks with the government.
Among the prisoners being released are 15 members of the Chasi Mulia Adivasi Sangha, a group that says it stands for tribal rights and is affiliated with the Naxals.The state government has been criticised by some for being too casual in its attempts to ensure the urgent release of the hostages.