The government on Thursday declined to take the initiative of declaring a ceasefire with the Left-wing radicals and allowed the deadline set by Communist Party of India-Maoist leader Koteshwar Rao alias Kishenji to lapse.
"There is no question of us calling up the number. And first of all, we think it is a hoax played up by Maoist sympathisers," a senior home ministry official told IANS.
Reacting to Home Minister P. Chidambaram's appeal earlier this week that Maoists should abjure violence and issue a statement to this effect, Kishenji had in turn asked the central government to call a cell phone number (9734695789) Thursday if it wanted to advance the peace process with the Maoists.
"Nobody from the ministry is calling that number. In the first place, the number given out by the Maoist leadership is not reachable," said a home ministry official.
Kishenji, who had opposed talks with the government, made a sudden turnaround Monday and offered a 72-day ceasefire. He said there would be no Left-wing violence if the security forces stopped their operations in West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa.
"The deadline begins on Feb 25 (observed as martyr's day by the Maoists) and ends on May 7, during which there will be no violence from either side," he had said.
However, just after the conditional ceasefire offer to the government, armed rebels attacked a camp housing security personnel in West Bengal's West Midnapore district.
Chidambaram has repeatedly stressed that the government will respond "promptly" if Maoist rebels made a formal and unconditional offer to stop fighting and start talks.
"I would like a short, simple statement" from the group "saying we will abjure violence and we are prepared for talks," Chidambaram said.
"I would like no ifs, no buts and no conditions," he said.