Exactly two years ago to this date, Jhina Hikaka was in the eye of a nationwide storm. As the first time Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) of Laxmipur constituency of Odisha’s Koraput district who was abducted by the Maoist insurgents and kept along for 34 days, the abduction of Hikaka was an unprecedented and daring attack on the writ of the Indian state. Today, the 39-year-old Hikaka is back on the centrestage, seeking a larger role, that of Lok Sabha Member of Parliament (MP) from Koraput.
Asked about the biggest lesson he learnt out of his experience, the sitting Biju Janata Dal (BJD) legislator replied, “It is an incident
which even though is behind me but is not one bit out of my mind. Those thirty four days taught me that more than anything else, what this place needs is democracy, education and socio economic upliftment of the masses.”
Even though Hikaka claimed he does not let that incident or the fear of it stop him in any way, his movements are now monitored and adequate security is provided. It is an incident which is still not fully understood by most. “There was a political conspiracy of sorts which was at play, it wasn’t a pure, black and white kind of case,” revealed a source. However, Hikaka dismissed these whispers. “There was nothing wrong or suspicious. I convinced the Maoists of my intent and desire to work for the locals and they released me. There is a lesson in this even for our leaders. They need to engage and unless that is done, future is going to be bleak,” he warned.
Up against a resurgent Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) and a former Odisha Chief Minister Giridhar Gamang from the Congress, Hikaka’s task is cut out. “But it is also easy because people know me and have seen me more than the other two. Daily, I tour multiple villages, listening to the locals and preparing an action plan,” countered Hikaka. He also took pride in stating, “I am a tribal myself and you know I never take lunch along. I just go wherever work takes me and the locals feed me.
I don’t even take fruits along.”
His competitor, BJP’s Sibasankar Ulaka, termed Hikaka a ‘failure’. “You don’t have to go too far, just visit his assembly constituency. He has not been able to even fix the road leading to his own village in the last five years,” he said. When asked about his abduction case, Ulaka just smiled.
Hikaka, a law graduate, is also a self proclaimed sociologist. “Skill development, area development are the tools required here in Koraput. As a specialist in sociology, I analyse people and their behaviour. That is how I tour my constituency, despite being so-called Maoist-hit through the night without fear,” he declared.
On the issue of curbing the insurgency, Hikaka felt that unless amalgamated, Maoists would continue to pose a threat. “They need to be told that their violence has no place. We must welcome them. If they still want to indulge into violence then through the route of education and development, we should wean away the masses. That, in my opinion is the only way,” he said.