Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Chidambaram renews offer of talks with Naxals

Agencies Posted online: Tuesday , Feb 09, 2010 at 1544 hrs

Kolkata : After a meeting of four naxal-affected states, the Centre on Tuesday said it was ready to hold talks with the Maoists if they "halt" violence.

"My appeal to all the naxals on behalf of all the chief ministers who participated in the conference two days ago, on behalf of naxal affected states, if you abjure violence that is if you say a halt to violence, we are not asking you to do anything more, if you halt the violence we are prepared to talk to you on any matter," Home Minister P Chidambaram said.

He was talking to reporters after a meeting of chief minister of Naxal-affected states which was not attended by chief ministers of Bihar and Jharkhand Nitish Kumar and Shibu Soren respectively.

Kumar told reporters in Patna that he could not be away from Patna for long and today is the scheduled day for the state cabinet to meet. Soren, who had cited illness for not attending the meeting, had deputed his two deputy chief ministers.

Against the backdrop of reports that Kumar kept away at the instance of Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee, Chidambaram sought to play down his absence.

He said Kumar had told him in Delhi on Sunday that he had some prior commitment and that he may not be able to attend the Kolkata meeting. "His senior officials are here.

Either I can go to Patna or he can go to Delhi (to discuss Maoist issues). That is not an issue," Chidambaram said.

On the naxal issue, the Home Minister said the "condition" is Maoist should "halt" violence. “Unfortunately, past appeals have been spurned. Therefore, we are obliged to continue the operations as long as naxals indulge in violence. These operations will continue and I am confident that further progress will be made in next six months”, Chidambaram said. “We made it very clear that the purpose of these operations is not to kill anyone. They are our own people. We care for them, we care for their lives”, he said.

The meeting, convened by the Union Home Minister, to help states to coordinate their campaign against Naxals, began an hour behind schedule as Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik arrived late. The meeting was attended by West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee.

“Use of force alone will not solve the problem. We all agree on that. But in order to put an end to violence and re-establish civil administration, it is necessary to use force”, he said when asked about the Bihar Chief Minister's contention that the Maoist problem could not be solved by use of force. “The government must continue operations against Maoists in a careful, calibrated and controlled way if Maoists do not halt violence”, he said.

Soren sent his two deputy chief ministers Raghubar Das and Sudesh Mahto, while Bihar government was represented by its Home Secretary Amir Subhani and DGP Anand Shankar. The meeting reviewed at length the strategy adopted to deal with Maoists and coordination among neighbouring states as the Naxals often fled from one state to another after indulging in violence

“As long as the violence continues, the operation too will continue. I hope I will get back to you with some positive results in six months”, Chidamabaram told the four Maoist-hit states. He, however, said, “The purpose of the operation is not to kill anyone, but to re-establish civil administration and reclaim areas dominated by Maoists. “We are making progress, which is slow but steady and we will continue to make progress. It is not just like a cricket scoreboard where you will get results every over”, he said.

The progress of both intra and inter-state operations against Maoists was reviewed at the meeting “and it was found that states have made significant progress in intra-state operations”, he said. Three key naxalite leaders, including a politburo member and two zonal leaders, he said had been apprehended during anti-Maoist operations in south Bihar, UP and Orissa.

The discussions focussed on the offensives to be launched at the inter-state junctions of West Bengal-Jharkhand and Bihar-Jharkhand as these areas were considered hotbed of Left wing extremists, official sources said. Developmental issues were also discussed at the meeting attended by CRPF chief Vikram Srivastav, Additional Secretary (Home) DRS Chowdhury, Additional Director (IB) P Mahendra, Joint Secretary (Home) Kashmir Singh and Security Advisor Brig D S Dadwal

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