Thursday, December 03, 2009

‘Govt ready for talks in 72 hrs if Naxals abjure violence’

TNN 3 December 2009, 03:58am IST

NEW DELHI: Days before the launch of its offensive against Maoists, Centre on Wednesday made one more pitch for dialogue with extremists, saying that it would respond within 72 hours if the ultras decide to talk after "formally abjuring violence".

Home minister P Chidambaram told the Rajya Sabha: "We are willing to hold talks with Naxal groups, facilitate their talks with state governments. But the condition is they should formally abjure violence."

Referring to his earlier offer, Chidambaram said he was asking Maoists merely to merely abjure violence without insisting that they laid down arms.

"I said abjure violence.... give me 72 hours to respond. I will consult Prime Minister and chief ministers," said the home minister, adding, "We can talk about any subject.. development, infrastructure, governance...we can talk any subject provided the Naxals abjure violence...but as long as violence persists, I see no scope for talks."

In fact, while extending the invitation, Chidambaram made a strong case for Centre's plans for an offensive against the Naxalites, asking for a strong political consensus and exhorting the civil society to stop painting the Maoists as victims and the state as the villain.

The home minister emphasized that the ultras were not in favour of abjuring violence. He, while replying to a debate in Rajya Sabha on internal security situation, said: "Their (Maoists) answer was abjuring violence is not on their agenda and they believe in armed struggle." He said if Maoists want they can contest election and come to Parliament. "They can sit on your chair," he said, pointing at Chairperson's chair.

Chidambaram said the country and Parliament have to decide whether the violence followed by the Maoists can be supported.

Quoting the CPI (Maoist) politburo resolution of June this year, the home minister said it showed that naxalites do not believe in the parliamentary system but in armed struggle and treat the state as enemy.

"I never used the word enemy to describe Naxals...we are not at war with Naxals or tribal people," he said.

"Is it not time to stand up and make a choice," Chidambaram asked members of all the parties in the Upper House.

He rapped the civil society comprising former judges, journalists, lawyers and other intellectuals for supporting the cause of naxalites.

Referring to the point made by several opposition members and also the civil society that development is the answer to the problem, the home minister said this can happen only when the civil administration is established in areas taken over by Maoists.

Earlier while replying to supplementaries during Question Hour, he said no Cabinet minister was a supporter of Naxal violence, apparently dismissing charges that railway minister Mamata Banerjee was sympathising with Maoists.

He said a group of people from West Midnapore district in West Bengal formed a group to protest against police atrocities. "One or two of my (Cabinet) colleagues visited the area in order to talk to that group to find out what their complaint was against the police," he said. Chidambaram, however, did not name the ministers.

He said the ministers had "never supported" Naxals. They are "totally against (Naxal) violence". The home minister said it was only a perception that ministers were supporting the Naxal movement.

During his reply to the debate, Chidambaram later said the Centre's priority is to coordinate with the state governments to reclaim areas under Naxal control as was done in Lalgarh in West Bengal.

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