Chhattisgarh Maoists offer conditional talks

Krishnakumar P | February 16, 2009 17:27 IST
Last Updated: February 16, 2009 19:35 IST


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Maoists in Chhattisgarh have invited the state government for peace talks provided a 'conducive and pro-people atmosphere' is created.

Dandakaranya special zonal committee member and spokesperson Pandu alias Pandanna invited a select group of local electronic media-persons to his forest hideout late last week and made the offer through them.

Pandu had also hinted at the Maoists' preparedness for talks in a statement released on January 19. 'We invite the Chhattisgarh government to the Abujhmar [a very dense and inaccessible forest area in the Bastar region from where the Maoists run their parallel government] for peace talks. We will provide the entire cabinet full security,' Pandu said in the interaction.

In his January 19 statement, Pandu criticised the government for the killing of 19 people in Singaram district and the Salwa Judum campaign. The Maoists said those killed in the Singaram encounter are innocent villagers while the government claimed they were Maoists.

The last paragraph of that long statement signed by Pandu said the Maoists would be willing to sit for talks provided a conducive and pro-people atmosphere is created. 'Our party announces that it will take all steps, including talks, in the interest of the hardworking but suffering people,' his statement said.

However, the same statement rubbished an earlier offer for talks from the government as a diversion tactic and a 'step to misguide the people'.

Chief Minister Raman Singh was reported as saying even the government favoured talks to bring peace in the region but insisted that the Maoists had to end violence if they want to come to the table for talks. The home minister and senior government officials also indicated that the government may be favourable towards the move while saying that they will adopt a wait and watch approach. Sources said the government is planning to nominate the director general of police or someone from the same level for talks.

Senior intelligence officials, however, are of the view that this is just one more diversionary tactic of the rebels to buy time. "Though they are by no means a spent force, they certainly have suffered heavy setbacks last year. So we do not know how genuine their offer is," said a senior intelligence officer. "It also remains to be seen how the government is going to react to it and how seriously they are taking the offer," he added.

Senior Congress leader and the architect of the Salwa Judum, Mahendra Karma, said talks should be conducted at a higher level. "The offer has come from a zonal committee. If at all there are talks, they should be conducted between the central government and the central committee of the Maoists," Karma, who lost in the recent assembly election, said. "And both these central teams should have members from the affected states so that the problem is resolved in a wholesome, thorough manner," Karma added.

Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Manish Kunjam, who also heads an umbrella organisation of tribal outfits, the Adivasi Mahasabha, welcomed the talks. "They have invited the government for talks and laid down a few conditions, all of which we agree with. The party and the tribal organisations welcome the move. We will try our level best and do what we can in our limited capacity to ensure the move fructifies," he said.

On Karma's opinion that talks should be held only at the central level, he said that did not mean one opposes any offer for peace talks at the local level. "Though Karma is correct in saying talks at the central level are necessary, that doesn't mean that we should reject an offer from the zonal committee. This is after all the Dandakaranya zonal committee which has powers similar to that of a state committee in the Maoist power structure. Also, the Dandakaranya region is like no other� it's like the seat of Maoist power. So it is definitely an important move," Kunjam said.



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