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Chidambaram asks Maoists to lay down arms, come for talks

delhi Updated: Jun 19, 2009 17:42 IST

The Centre on Friday asked the Maoists in Lalgarh area of West Bengal to lay down arms and come for talks.

Home Minister P Chidambaram said he endorsed the appeal of West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to the Maoists and the tribals to come for talks.

"I endorse that appeal. If they wish to talk, they should come forward to do so. We will be happy to facilitate the talks," he told reporters after a Cabinet meeting in New Delhi.

The Home Minister said the ongoing operation by police and paramilitary personnel in Lalgarh would take more time and the forces should expect the "unexpected".

"Progress will be slow. They (forces) are making progress. ... So far, the operation is going according to plans but they must be prepared for the unexpected. I sincerely hope that with the kind of action we have advised, the operation will be successful.

"An operation of this kind will take some time. In fact, it will take considerably more time than was anticipated," he said when asked about the situation in Lalgarh.

He said the forces were "moving and moving cautiously" and the ongoing operation was not against the tribals but only against the Naxalites.

The state government has already said it would talk to the tribals on any grievance they might have, Chidambaram informed.

Asked whether the security forces could expand their operations to adjoining districts of Bankura and Purulia, he said since both districts were near Lalgarh and the ongoing operations "could take them to Bankura and Purulia too".

To a question as to why the CPI(Maoist) was not banned as in other states, he said the issue was pending with the state government.

"There are voices in Bengal which have raised the demand for ban.

"We think they should be banned in West Bengal as in other states," he said.

Replying to a question on whether Congress and Trinamool Congress were extending indirect support to the Maoists, Chidambaram said on the contrary, both the parties have condemned their activities and added that Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee has condemned the violence.

"I think it is completely unjustified and unwarranted to insinuate that CPI(Maoists) was being supported by Congress and Trinamool.Nobody denies that the local people have grievances," he said.

Chidambaram said the Naxalites were entrenched in the area for the last six months and it was difficult to give their numbers.

"I am not here to make any judgement," he said while declining to comment on whether it was the state government's failure to check the entrenchment of a large number of Naxalites in the area.

Asked whether it was a "war-like" situation in Lalgarh, Chidambaram said "government does not go to war with is own people. There they may have grievances. But there is a way to resolve the grievances in a democracy."

Taking to arms and claiming that a certain area has been 'liberated' was not the way in a democracy, he said, stressing that "we are not at war with the people".

"We are dealing with a situation where there is a militant organisation and we want them to lay down arms and come to talks if they have any grievances," the minister said.