The Maoists have responded favourably to the Centre’s offer for peace talks, but with three conditions: remove Home Minister P. Chidambaram, bring in independent mediators and announce a three-month bilateral ceasefire.
In her speech on the eve of Independence Day, President Pratibha Patil had appealed to the Maoists for an end to violence. Maoist leader Koteshwar Rao, alias Kishenji, said, “We respect Honourable President Pratibha Patil’s appeal asking us to come to negotiating table.”.
Claiming Maoists were “the biggest patriots”, Kishenji said his party wanted to join the President and PM Manmohan Singh in their fight against corruption and terrorism.
But Kishenji was firm about the three pre-conditions. He wanted the government’s response before any further step was taken. In particular, he insisted that Chidambaram and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister K. Rosaiah step down immediately for the killing of his party’s spokesperson and top leader Azad, alias Cherukuri Rajkumar in Andhra’s Adilabad district on July 2.
Kishenji claimed Azad was killed in a staged encounter.
As for independent mediators, Kishenji suggested the names of well known Maoist sympathisers: Swami Agnivesh, activists Medha Patkar, B.D. Sharma and Arundhati Roy, among others The Maoists’ writ runs in over 220 of India’s 626 districts. Last year, 998 persons were killed in Maoist violence. More than 200 security personnel were killed in the first six months of 2010 alone.