Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Naxal leader sets terms for peace talks with govt

Mohua Chatterjee, TNN, 10 February 2010, 12:03am IST

NEW DELHI: Even as home minister P Chidambaram met chief ministers of naxal-affected states in Kolkata to strategise on anti-Maoist operations,

the ultras made a renewed pitch for peace talks on the condition that some of their top jailed leaders be released to facilitate the process.

In what may be an indication that the Left extremists are feeling the heat of concerted Centre-state operations in areas like Lalgarh and Jangalmahal in West Bengal and in Chhattisgarh, Maoists have sent out fresh feelers for "talks" to the government.

CPI (Maoist) general secretary Ganapathy said on Tuesday his party is ready for talks with one of the pre-conditions being Maoist leaders like Narayan Sanyal, Amitabha Bagchi, Sushil Roy and Kobad Gandhi be released from custody. Though the "offer" can be read as a bid to earn a respite from the ongoing crackdown, the bid for talks also marks a climbdown of sorts.

While Trinamool Congress chief and railway minister Mamata Banerjee has also suggested talks and even the possibility of mediation, Ganapathy told TOI, "This (anti-Maoist operation) is a brutal campaign of repression aimed at suppression of the political movement of people and exploitation of minerals."

The Maoist leader said talks would mean a halt to the crackdown and that would be in the interest of the people. "The longer the gap (in operations) better for the people. But while holding the gun in one hand, one cannot talk ...The main point the party has placed before the government is -- all-out war has to be withdrawn, ban on the party and its mass organisations has to be lifted and `illegal' detention and torture of comrades have to be stopped and they be immediately released," said Ganapathy.

Ganapathy argued that if the demand for release of leaders is met they would lead and represent the party in the talks.

The party has been gravely hit by the arrest of its top leaders. Politburo members like Sanyal, Bagchi, Roy and Gandhi are frontline leaders and there are some other central committee members who are also in custody.

Ganapathy did admit that the Maoists may be losing intellectual support its claim to fight for the truly dispossed once enjoyed. Asked if the support in the early days of the Lalgarh movement had worn off, Ganapathy said, "Initially there was a lot of support among urban intelligentsia. Now depending on the enemy's onslaught and nature of struggle, there could be changes in the support base. Some people may also go over to the opposition in the Lalgarh movement."

Elaborating on the limitations to Maoist appeal, he said, "In Bengal, our influence with civil liberty groups and in urban areas is not strong. We need to do more... A lot would depend on our work there and the development of Lalgarh movement. There is a lot of difference between working among masses and intellectuals."

Those who cannot directly support the violent phases of the movement can come together on other issues such as opposing tough anti-terror laws, he pointed out, indicating that Maoists would continue to look to co-opt and engage any movement or campaign which might benefit them.

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