Wednesday, December 23, 2009

India minister seeks 'negotiations' with Maoist rebels

India's federal home minister has said he is ready for "serious negotiations" with Maoist rebels.

P Chidambaram said the rebels were not "terrorists" and had raised "serious issues" about the lack of development.

Last month, the minister said security forces were getting ready to launch a massive offensive against the rebels.

The rebels are fighting for communist rule in many Indian states. More than 6,000 people have died during the rebels' 20-year fight.

"They are not terrorists attacking India from outside. They are rebels who have raised serious issues like lack of development specially in tribal areas. We are prepared to discuss alternative structures of governance with them," Mr Chidambaram told a meeting.

"I am not asking them to surrender weapons. I am only asking them to abjure violence. That will set up the ground for serious negotiations."

'Critical issues'

The minister said he was all for "serious negotiation".

"The Indian constitution can be amended to create alternative structures of governance in the backward tribal areas to facilitate the cause of development," he said.

"I appeal to the Maoists to stop violence and come out to negotiate these issues. We are prepared to examine their perspectives on these critical issues but we cannot allow any breakdown of law and order."



We are prepared to discuss alternative structures of governance with them


The minister said the governments in the states where the Maoists were active would be involved in the talks.

Reacting to Mr Chidambaram's proposal, a Maoist leader said the minister was indulging in "double talk".

"He is offering peace and talks but he is sending federal forces everywhere we are operating. He cannot take us for a ride," Koteswara Rao told the BBC.

Last month, a Maoist leader said the rebels were willing to talk to the government if it put off the planned offensive against them.

The rebels have a presence in more than 223 of India's 600-odd districts across 20 states, according to the government.

There have been more than 1,400 cases related to violence by Maoists between January and August, according to official records.

Nearly 600 civilians have died over that period.

The insurgents wield most influence in areas which are poor and dominated by tribes people.

They are also areas widely seen as being rich in mineral wealth which the Maoists say is being handed over to corporate firms while the poor remain deprived.

1 comment:

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