Patna February 28, 2010
The Maoists' 72-day ceasefire offer has thrown the government for a loop. The proposed truce treaty seems too tacit to be trusted; but too rare to be rejected at the outset.
Even before going into the substance of the Maoist proposal, its timing - offering peace at a time when a massive assault against them is on the cards - raises a question mark. Are the rebels serious or simply buying time?
The timing has other crucial significance as well since this is the time when leaves fall of the trees, which may make it difficult for the Maoists to stay hidden in the hills during a paramilitary reconnaissance. The weather is perhaps one crucial reason why the Centre too has planned an operation now and the Maoists are walking the extra mile to shelve it.
Although the Maoists have not only remained operational but even flourished during and in the aftermath of all previous police operations, the biggest offensive on cards may have unnerved the rebels.
The police administration has no reasons to trust the Maoists. But, the Centre can ill-afford to let ideas dictate their future understanding. "There are too many issues. It's not meant to be. It's not our history. It's not our future," said a senior IPS officer in Jharkhand, dismissing the Maoist offer as a subterfuge.
The trust bar between the Maoist and the government is almost non-existent, the previous initiatives have fallen through; and a full peace accord remains to be worked out.
But, isn't it time to step back and create a new template? There are a few who toe this line as well. "But, this is perhaps the first time the government has an opportunity to hold a direct discussion with the Maoists. I don't see any reasons why they should let go the opportunity," said Rajiv Ranjan Prasad, a former director General of Police in Jharkhand.
Prasad obviously believes that there exists a small chance for peace if the government can use this opportunity to fruition. "After all, administration is an art of possibilities," he said.
Although it is still too early to hope for big breakthrough in case the Maoists and the ministers settles down for a roundtable, the stakes involved in the entrenched tension between the rebels and the cops and its dangerous ramifications on society and governance explains why the offer is worth lapping up even if Kishanji's peace offer could be driven by his desire to escape a war at full-throttle.
The Maoists offer has come days after the rebels killed 24 police in a brazen attack on a security camp in West Bengal state. Last week, in a retaliatory act of violence the Maoists killed 11 people in Bihar's Jamui district to avenge an earlier killing of their supporters.
Almost at the same time Jharkhand Administration was forced to kowtow and allow release of two suspected Maoists on bail as part of the swap deal to secure release of a Block Development officer from Maoists captivity.
The bottom-line is that the Centre needs to have unstinted support from West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Jharkhand to take the proposed operation Greenhunt against the Maoists to a desired destination-in case Chidambaram does not accede to Maoist offer.